A selection of Under 9 and 10 from Cambridge United’s Academy squad participated in a great 7v7 outdoor tournament on the outskirts of Stuttgart last weekend and demonstrated many positive aspects.
The Bruchwald International Under 10 tournament plays host to 24 teams over a weekend at a top venue hosted by FSV 08 Bissingen, and Cambridge United were pleased to be again invited and participating with some of the biggest clubs in Germany and beyond. The tournament would certainly test punctuality, personality, character, technique, decision-making and professionalism.
With an array of top German clubs including VfB Stuttgart, FSV Mainz 05, Fortuna Dusseldorf, Karlsruher SC, FC Augsburg, Greuther Furth and Linz ASK (Austria) the level of the tournament would be very challenging, testing and competitive for us to demonstrate our strengths and talent.
With the exception of three players from a squad of 10, this was to be the first European experience for some of our young Academy players so this would only add to the excitement for them and the uncertainty of how they would find the whole experience.
For some it was the first time flying, being away from their parents, visiting Germany, being on a European tour, so new challenges whilst participating against other talented youngsters. It was certainly going to be an action packed weekend of learning!
We travelled to Germany via Karlsruher Baden-Baden and we welcomed on arrival by the tournament hosts who kindly took us to our accommodation, which was situated in Gerlingen close to Stuttgart. A quality hotel was our base for our stay which our players found very luxurious! They certainly felt like professional footballers!
With our arrival in good time, we had the opportunity to walk into the small town of Gerlingen, to stretch our legs and also find some lunch following our journey. The town itself was quiet and peaceful and the walk through the centre was relaxing as the players continued their social chats as they began to learn more about each other.
On route back to the hotel, it was time for some decision making and responsibility, which included purchasing additional items for which they required to support our football over the next two days. The players chose their own partnerships as they went about their shopping in a superstore. It was interesting to see how they chose various items and how they worked together to plan what they would purchase together with learning about the value of money! Observing them was interesting and they were very good! Impressive with their decision making with the items they chose and brought.
Back at the hotel, it was time to check-in to our rooms, which were twin rooms with all the mod cons so the youngsters were delighted to see their rooms! The players chose their rooms and before receiving their room cards which they would look after, it was time to provide them with some important information about the hotel, the other guests, the guidelines and safety aspects to ensure their stay would be enjoyable for all.
The players were left then to their own devices as they checked in their rooms unpacked and got ready for their training session will would start within the hour. Opposite the hotel was an astro turf which enabled us to enjoy a good practice session prior to the tournament and this also enabled the players to have a good stretch and continue working on their technical aspects. The session was positive and before we knew it 90 minutes had passed by and it was time to head back to the hotel, to shower, change and get ready for our evening meal, which we decided would be at a sports complex and restaurant next to the hotel.
It was time to ensure we would eat well and the players were provided with a variety of options. This is where we can identify the players eating habits – see the fussy eaters and the good eaters! The majority chose and ate well with a variety of Lasagne, Bolognaise and Pasta dishes consumed together with a side salad. Eating the correct foods is very important, and although some can be fussy, it’s not long that they realise that it is good for them and so they consume it well. It’s also a test of character to how you deal with something that you might not particularly select as a favourite dish, but certainly an important dish. Choices which will have an effect on own performance for sure!
Back to the hotel it was time for our team meeting about aspects we would be looking for throughout the tournament, together with aspects we were highlighting off the pitch. The players are encouraged to speak and ask questions to support their understanding and all were happy with our thoughts and went to bed in positive spirits. It had been quite a long day and a very new experience for most, so an early night was important and the players all went to sleep very quickly which was credit to them.
People often ask us staff, how do we get the boys asleep early? How do we get them to eat right? How do we get them to behave in a great way? The answer is the players want to improve and develop so they take on the advice we provide together with the professionalism we offer and support them with. Players make their own decisions and we cannot force them, however our players are a special group who enjoy each other’s company and environment which enables all to join in and respect each other to support their football.
With the players asleep early it was time for us coaches to unwind down ourselves as we prepared and planned the last details for the following day. It is important we have a schedule our players can follow to ensure preparation can be demonstrated and our day runs as smoothly as possible. Organising and Planning is a key factor and we like to demonstrate this just as we ask our players to do the same in their preparation.
The day of the Bruchwald International Tournament had arrived and with 24 teams participating the groups were divided into 6 teams x 4 groups. We were placed in Group 3 and with the tournament commencing at 11.00am there was no rush in the morning. A good continental breakfast was provided and we ensured our players consumed a lot to ensure energy levels would be high for the day, as after all it is the most important meal of the day! It was back to our rooms soon after, to shower, pack and prepare for the tournament as our transport to the tournament was arriving at 10.00 before heading to the tournament headquarters, where our first game would be at 11.39am
The format of the tournament, saw the top four from each group quality for places 1-16 with the 5th and 6th placed teams participating against each other for 17-24th positions in a consolation section of the tournament. Therefore our first aim was to qualify in the top 4 positions in the group! Not easy but achievable if we work hard at our aims.
We travelled without ‘a recognised Goalkeeper’ and therefore shared this position amongst the team. We have some outfield players that enjoy going in goal, and are good! This was not a problem participating with just outfield players as goalkeepers need to be good with their feet!
With the fixtures 7v7 in good size pitches and correct sized goals the format was great for all and with the group games 16 minutes long, there would be opportunities for us to demonstrate our talent, but also ensure we could score in the time allocated to secure enough points! This itself is different for our players who play without points to aim for, in our development academy fixture programme.
Our players were encouraged to perform well regardless of the score, although they needed to understand the tempo and also patience required in such games. This would be a good mental test as well as physical.
On observing the first set of games it was evident that they was a contrast of styles from teams. With Goalkeepers allowed to pick up back passes it was like going back to the 1980’s when teams could slow the game right down if they were winning which proved mentally tough and frustrating at times for the players who were keen to set a good tempo in the games.
Opposition Goalkeepers were also encouraged to kick as far as possible from their hands, and therefore it provided a challenging way for us to defend, although provided a new experience for them to deal with, and in the main they performed well with it.
Our group consisted of the following teams:
• TSV Neu Ulm, VfB Stuttgart, SF Foching, Hallescher FC and MSV Duisburg
This would be a competitive group, and regardless of team names, we knew that we needed to be mentally prepared for each challenge.
The fixtures unfolded as follows:
• TSV Neu Ulm (Lost 0-1)
An encouraging performance which was pleasing to identify against a team that caught us twice on the counter, with one deciding the score line. Good controlled possession with numerous attacks at their goal without the final touch or decision being effective enough.
• VfB Stuttgart (Won 4-1)
A performance which demonstrated why these players are young talented footballers. Comfortable in possession, good 1v1 attacking attributes with a determination to succeed. It was very pleasing to identify and we were ruthless in our decision making. It was also great to participate against a team like us, who wanted to play in all areas of the pitch, therefore a great football experience.
• Hallescher (Drew 2-2)
Maybe the highlights of the last performance, got to the players, as this time, the decision making was not so great. No disrespect but this was a game which was for the taking and therefore after finding ourselves 0-2 down, due to our mentality rather than talent, we made the game difficult for ourselves. However in typical U’s spirit, we came back to level and was close to stealing a win. It was ‘Well Done’ for the comeback, but a good discussion was required about our standards and what is required in terms of performing.
• SF Foching (Won 4-1)
It was not surprising to see the reaction of the players, who totally controlled this fixture. A rebound follow up from their set-piece was the only aspect which was failed to deal with however in the main we demonstrated some excellent individuality.
• MSV Duisburg (Won 4-2)
A great fixture for us against the team sitting currently top in the group. We performed well and were pleased with our display. We demonstrated to all viewing what a good group of players we have. 0-1 down early on, to 4-1 up before conceding with the last kick of the game. This performance was arguably our best of the day as we had to deal with a physical presence whilst displaying our technical attributes. The players were delighted with their performance.
The results secured us in 1st position within our group, which was very pleasing. We were delighted with the attitude and perseverance of the player’s performances and felt that although we performed well, we were maybe too inconsistent with our performances from game to game. We also understood that the team may look inconsistent however the players themselves needed to be more consistent with their overall performance.
The U's in action against Stuttgart
The players needed to be individually better from game to game, and in the main it was decision making aspects which were challenge and tested. Although our aim was to qualify we never got ahead of ourselves but just focused on the next fixture and the objectives and aims we were looking to achieve.
As group winner of Group 3, we were placed in the next round of the following teams:
• 4th place team from Group 4 (FSV Frankfurt)
• 3rd place team from Group 2 (SSV Reutlingen)
• 2nd place team from Group 1 (Linzer ASK – Austria)
The first fixture of the new group began straight away with FSV Frankfurt as our opponents with the fixture duration now 20 minutes per fixture.
• FSV Frankfurt (Lost 1-4)
A crazy 5 minute spell midway through this fixture saw the U’s caught out as we conceded 3 goals after controlling the early stages well. The fixture was never going to be easy, but maybe we were too confident, and if any underestimations were predicted, it will come back and haunt you as proven in this game. Leading 1-0 we conceded half-way through and although we plan to ensure players have opportunities to perform, our changes on this occasion were not able to maintain the positive start.
It was certainly a disappointment not only in the defeat, but how and now would make it a tougher challenge for our next fixtures. Looking at the positives, it would provide us and the players a good opportunity to prove that we can demonstrate the aspects required in the next fixtures.
It was soon time for our journey back to base where we would prepare for our evening meal. Again we visited the Italian restaurant next door, with the players choosing their meals accordingly. We socialised together whilst viewing Dortmund v Hamburg on the big screen, which was a goal fest (6-2)
A great meal was had by all, before it was time to conduct our squad meeting for the evening detailing our thoughts to what we had demonstrated and what action planning we needed to agree for the following day.
We felt as a group that although we had a good day, we mostly were disappointed with the last performance, however we were backing ourselves to demonstrate well the following day. The players were pleased with finishing top of a tough group, although this was great, it was time to re-focus and work towards the next challenges.
The players went to bed positive and tired from a good day of football and learning experiences. As always their conduct was excellent and were pleased with them.
Today we would be slightly earlier to ensure we could have breakfast, shower and pack ready for our departure. Rooms needed to be clean, and this they were. You would never have thought a group of 9/10 year olds had been staying! As we would be departing from the tournament straight to the airport for our journey home, it was important everyone was ready to go on time and this was accomplished well by all.
We were soon back at the tournament in preparation for the start of the play-offs. Our group opponents I’m sure would be looking to start the day well so would still be of a challenge, but one we welcomed.
• SSV Reutlingen (Won 4-0)
As expected a tough challenge against a 2nd place team but once we went ahead it was only going to be a case of how many as our techniques shone through with quality finishes to cap a really good performance. A great start!
• Linzer ASK (Austria) (Lost 0-1)
Observing some of the participants, this team caught our eye, as they were technically good, strong and hard working so we knew this would be a great challenge. Needless to say because of our defeat v FSV Frankfurt, we now had to win this to stand any chance of qualifying further.
The U’s demonstrated many positive from this fixture and the longer the game went on, the more risks we began to take as we required a victory. They had already won both their games so they were happy to sit and defend against us shoot from long range and break on the counter. With the back pass rule not being applied, they would slow the game right down and make it challenging for us. Numerous good opportunities were missed by the U’s and with the opposition doing their best to slow the game down, one piece of good technical play by them saw them score late, which resulted in us attacking more without quite succeeding. Although beaten the performance was pleasing and this we can accept. It was a great test for us and just what we require for our players to learn.
The defeat saw us now enter the 9-12 positions and therefore 9th position was our new target. We could not help think what might have been, if our performance was positive v FSV Frankfurt, but that was the good lesson for them. Regardless of the past, it’s now what counts, so don’t rest on your laurels but keep pushing the boundaries and striving to be the best you can.
Energy and concentration levels are key, so diet, fluid, rest and recovery are all important aspects and the players can begin to see the links when it comes to meal and bed times, to support them in all fixtures, especially the more challenging ones!
• SV Darmstadt 98 (Drew 2-2 – Won 3-2 on Pens)
The U’s made slightly hard work of this fixture with a goal conceded after approximately 15 seconds, to comfortably get themselves back in front with some excellent football, to only go and concede with seconds remaining! This meant a penalty shoot-out and in some positive aspect it was good to see the players in a different experience.
Players chose themselves who was taking and in what order. It was interesting to see who wanted one and who never! It’s always the players you think! As always it was time to see the personalities.
The sequence of the shoot-out, which Cambridge took first was as follows:
• Jayden Juettner Saved SV Darmstadt Goal
• Spencer Sykes Goal SV Darmstadt Saved
• Jamal Obeng Saved SV Darmstadt Goal
• Julinho Gomes Goal SV Darmstadt Saved
• Alex Stevens-Lee Goal SV Darmstadt Saved
Next up for the final tournament fixture for 9th/10th Position
• FSV Waiblingen (Drew 1-1 – Lost 2-4 on Pens)
This was quite an eventful fixture and certainly a game where we still to this minute could not believe we had lost! The young U’s demonstrated some excellent football, but when you gift a goal, it is difficult to break down teams that play to the tournament rules well, so once Waiblingen went ahead with their only attack, it was all about us and how we could unlock them to score. We had plenty of chances, and even won two penalties, but failed to convert either with their GK saving both, before we equalised in the dying seconds to take the game back to penalties!
Our players looked so relieved to have equalised and having just won a penalty shootout were very confident, although looking at the two penalties in the game, we needed to improve our decision making and execution.
Again we observed with interest players that wanted to take one. Would any of the takers in the game, step up again? Would any of the takers that missed last time in the shootout volunteer? Would any of the scorers want to have another opportunity? Needless to say, there would be no blame attached. It was a mental toughness challenge, which some aspire towards with others not having own self-belief, and fearing the worse. This is something we try and support the players with. To tackle any fears and to confront and win their personal battles with confidence.
Waiblingen stepped up first to
• Justin Ahlin Missed FSV Waiblingen Goal
• Julinho Gomes Saved FSV Waiblingen Saved
• Jayden Juettner Goal FSV Waiblingen Goal
• Harvey Dearlove Goal FSV Waiblingen Goal
• FSV Waiblingen Goal
The shoot-out resulted in us cementing 10th position which was pleasing, although believe 9th should have been the minimum. The final positioning gave the players an understanding of what is required in such tournaments, but more importantly the whole aspect of being on tour and learning more lessons and enjoying the experiences is superior.
A cool down followed by the players showering and preparing to pack for the final time, before heading off to get their tour memory of a CUFC Squad photo which was a nice souvenir of their time at FSV 08 Bissingen.
We were soon back on the road via our tournament hosts, who both now are CUFC fans and have a club Scarf as our present to them for their kind hospitality.. Our players continued to be in great spirits as we discussed and relived our tour experiences. From games to funny memories we had participated in, everyone had played their part in a successful tour.
This tour proved to be another excellence experience and although we came 10th from 24 teams this was a great achievement, especially considering the performances demonstrated and the teams participating. Just shows what you can achieve when you demonstrate various aspects and take yourself out the comfort zone.
We were very proud of their achievements both on and off the pitch. From compliments at the bakery, at lunch on the first day to the restaurant we ate in, to praise from strangers travelling with us on public transport, demonstrated the excellent professionalism and attitude the players continue to adopt.
Our travel home was smooth as ever and on route the players made a presentation to ‘Player’s player of the tour’ which was won by Herbie Townsend. The votes were tight although young Herbie edged it winning a club pennant from one of opponents an additional memory. The players all made a great contribution to a great weekend away where we learnt more about each other in excellent surroundings and trust this experience will be a first for many of the players.
Well Done to all the squad on a great weekend and it will be back to Academy fixtures this weekend, when the players participate against Chelsea and Bristol City.
Final Placements for Bruchwald International Under 10 Cup:
1. FSV Mainz 05
2. MSV Duisburg
3. SV Stuttgart Kickers
4. Hallescher FC
5. FC Kaiserslautern
6. Hertha 03 Zehlendorf
7. FSV Frankfurt
8. Linzer ASK
9. FSV Waiblingen
10. Cambridge United
11. TSV Neu-Ulm
12. SV Darmstadt 98
13. Fortuna Dusseldorf
14. SSV Reutlingen
15. FSV 08 Bissingen
16. SV Perouse
17. VfB Stuttgart
18. FC Augsburg
19. Karlsruher SC
20. Spvgg Greuther-Furth
21. Southend United
22. TV Pflugfelden
23. SF Foching
24. SV Sillenbuch
Cambridge United will no doubt by visiting this excellent tournament again next year, when we look to take our next group of exciting talent as we continue to support the young future of the club.
Alexander Stevens-Lee, Harvey Dearlove, Spencer Sykes, Adam Brumby, Harvey Beckett, Herbie Townsend, Jayden Juettner, Justin Ahlin, Jamal Obeng and Julinho Gomes
Marc Tracy (Head of Academy Operations) & Jake Hammond (Academy Coach)