Tom Pell blogs from Denmark.
Head of Academy Operations Tom Pell blogs about the club’s recent visit to Denmark which ended in Norhalne Elite Cup glory for Cambridge United’s U15’s.
“Wednesday 13th May saw the beginning of our annual trip to Denmark to take part in the Nørhalne Elite Cup. Tyear we decided to take our U13 – U15 players. We entered one team of combined U14 & U15s into the U15 section and a mixture of U13 & U14’s into the U14 section.
An early flight on Wednesday from Stansted to Billund meant that we arrived at our accommodation in good time in the afternoon. The Youth Hostel is a place we have never stayed before and was perfect for what we needed in order to plan, prepare, rest and recover what would prove to be a successful week.
The Wednesday preparation day involved a light training session, a little bit of food shopping to top us up with healthy food for the week, a lovely meal and team meetings.
Day two of the tour marked the first day of the tournament, which was held at the training ground of Aalborg AAB, a Champions League participant in 2013/14. Several 11v11 grass and 3G pitches played host to clubs from Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Finland, England, Scotland, Norway and even Brazil!
The U14 team were on first and started with a comfortable 4-0 victory against FC Honka from Finland. A good start, which was matched shortly after by the U15’s who defeated Ringkobing IF 1-0, although perhaps could and should have been several more but for a lack of quality with the final finish.
The way the fixtures worked gave all the lads (and staff) the opportunity to watch each other which helped with the group camaraderie and support for each squad.
The U15’s second and final game of the day was against IFK Lidingeo from Sweden. An early goal meant that we could afford to be patient and maintain long spells of possession without having to break them down too quickly. The lads did this extremely well meaning the U’s finished the game 3 goals to nil.
After their game, they showered and supported the younger squad, who ran out 1-0 victors to complete an impeccable start to the tournament.
The U14’s were up earliest on the Friday for day two of the Cup. Their first game at 9am was against the host Aalborg AAB on the 3G astro and was clearly our toughest test yet!
First half the boys showed the opposition a little too much respect, who enjoyed large periods of possession. However, despite their high percentage of the ball we held strong and the opposition struggled to break us down. Had it not been for a fantastic long range effort by the home side, the scores would have almost certainly been level at the break
The second half was much better and although we pressed a lot higher to maintain the ball for longer periods, we couldn’t quite get the finish that we deserved from three good chances. The draw would have been a fair result but that is the beauty of tournament football, the results and end product to your play have a consequence and it would be interesting to see how the boys reacted in their next game.
Hobro IF from Denmark were the U15’s first opponents of the day and the game played on the 3G ended 1-0 to the lads from the Abbey. I’m not sure how you say ‘parked the bus’ in Danish but that is what we were up against. I think word of mouth was that the U’s were top and the way to try and beat us was to hit us on the counter as our expansive style was very attack minded. It was great to see the whole team celebrate together when we eventually broke them down with 5 minutes to go, so that the lads maintained their 100% record in the tournament.
The U14’s kicked off in their second game at precisely noon, which ended the day with a disappointing 0-3 result. Having lost their previous game to Aalborg AAB 0-1, the boys simply had to win if they were to progress through to the semi-finals. Despite chasing the game valiantly, they conceded two late goals to bring an end to their tournament.
A shame and disappointing for the players but again presenting an opportunity for the staff to try and help the boys with areas that need to be improved and how tournament football can help highlight these areas sooner than perhaps on a weekly basis back in the UK.
The U15’s had to wait until 5pm for their last game of the day whereby a victory would ensure they won the group and would put them straight into the semi-final. Another early goal meant that the opposition then had to press us higher up the pitch, as they needed a win to have any chance of getting to the semi’s also, and this allowed for space in behind for us to break into and in the end run out comfortable 3-0 winners.
After a small wait for the bus we were back at Blokhus Dan Hostel to be watered and fed. After another debrief of the day, both teams prepared for the final day’s play which could see the U15’s finish anywhere in the top four and the U14’s finish anywhere from fifth to eighth.
Unfortunately for the U14 group the two defeats the day before meant the schedule was unkind to them again and it was another 6.30am breakfast ready for the bus collection at 7am.
Their penultimate game of the week was comfortable, a 2-0 victory against Holmen IF from Holland with lots of opportunities created and again could have been more.
An 11am kick off saw the U15’s take part in their semi-final against Jetsmark of which the winners would face either Aalborg AAB or FC Twente. An extremely physical team caused a threat to the U’s, particularly early on in the game with direct balls forward, plenty of pace and power to deal with.
Our defence were fantastic in not only destroying their chances but also creating opportunities for us to start our play from the back in a controlled manner. The first goal is always important in these fixtures with the games being 25 minutes each way and thankfully the first goal went to the U’s just before half time! Brilliant stuff!
The goal seemed to take the wind out of the oppositions sails and in the second half, albeit tough physically, the boys managed the game mentally and technically very well. A late goal meant the game finished 2-0 to the Yellows and the boys were now excited for the final.
With the U14’s winning their first game of the day, it meant their last game would result in them finishing either fifth or sixth. The U15’s prepared for the final by cheering on the younger lads in their last game with Jude White adopting a new song!
‘He’s class, he’s small, he’s quality on the ball, Jude White, Jude White’. Hopefully one for the U’s faithful to copy in years to come.
Half time saw the lads 2-0 thanks to some good finishing and excellent imagination in the final third. Adam Bridgeford (U14 coach) was left scratching his head 15 minutes into the second half as the lads were 2-3 down. Lewis Simper scored a trademark free kick in the last minute to save the lads blushes. I have seen a few of these free kicks over the years! The game ended 3-3 and it was now time for the U14’s to return the favour and support the U15’s in the Final.
The U15’s Final was played on the ‘main’ pitch and FC Twente from the Netherlands were the task that faced the U’s.
The U14’s were in fine voice from the side lines and they got louder as Ben Worman put the U’s 1-0 up! Jake Crow added a second from a corner shortly before the break too.
The message from myself and Stephen Payne at half time was to continue to enjoy the ball and at times when they pressed in order to try and get a goal back, be confident to play through them. If we get the next goal then it gives you an opportunity to really express yourself in a brilliant environment!
Shortly after the break Sam Squire added a third with a Frank Lampard type finish. Ben Worman added the fourth and final goal of the match, to complete a masterful final performance – a feat I envisage them doing many times again, but who knows?
Credit must go to all the lads, right through from the goal scorers to the goal keeper Finley Iron who kept six consecutive clean sheets, the first time any team had won the Elite Cup without conceding a single goal.
The message throughout the week was that the strength of the team is “THE TEAM” and this was clear to see with the songs and dancing when awarded the trophy. The large majority of this squad stand in the Newmarket Road End on a Saturday afternoon, so the level of singing was on par with their football throughout the week.
A great way to finish a great tour and a great season! Well done to all players that attended and we would like to make a special thank you to Per Jeppersen and his team for looking after us so well as always!
The club’s U9’s travelled to Leverkusen and the U11’s to Solingen in Germany to take on some of the ‘big boys’ of European football. Liverpool, Manchester City, AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus and Bayern Munich were just some of the names the boys came up against, with another report to follow soon on Cambridge-united.co.uk.”