Tom Pell reports on the Norhalne Cup
Youth Development Phase Lead Coach Tom Pell provides a full round up from the recent Academy Tour to Denmark for Cambridge United's U11 – U13 players.
Once again the Norhalne Cup provided a great week of football, weather and a valuable experience for our players!
The tour left on Wednesday morning with a mixed U11/U12 team playing in the U12 Elite Tournament, a mixed group of U12/U13 players in the U13 Elite Tournament and finally the U13/14’s competing in the U14 competition.
Our group of 40+ people arrived at the accommodation on Wednesday evening slightly later than planned due to traffic and spent the night sorting out their rooms, buying some additional snacks for the week, training and then having a team meeting! It all took place at our lovely accommodation DanHostel in Blockhus, which was a 25 minute walk to the beach and a 30 minute drive from Aalborg!
If the standard of football was the same as the weather we were in for a great week!
Thursday began with some positive performances and pleasing results.
Hornslet Skodstrup 2-1 Cambridge United
Cambridge United 8-2 Hjorring IF
Cambridge United 1-4 AaB Aalborg
Cambridge United 4-0 Lyseng IF
Norresundby FB 0-6 Cambridge United
Cambridge United 1-0 Herning Fremad
As always, the first day in tournament football is crucial should you want to progress to the latter stages. The U14’s gave themselves an excellent chance of progressing on Day one, whereas the U12 and U13 squads made it difficult for themselves and although there were some real positives to come out of their respective defeats, qualification was not in their own hands.
The weather remained beautiful on Friday and was replicated by the lads on the pitch. Six wins out of six games for the three age groups on day two. What stood out was the way in which the players took what they had heard in the team meetings the night before, and then implemented those aspects on the pitch. It created a fantastic feeling within the group.
Oppsal IF 1-6 Cambridge United
Holbaek BI 0-1 Cambridge United
Brommapojjkarna 2-3 Cambridge United
Oppsal IF 1-2 Cambridge United
Cambridge United 3-0 Vasulunds IF
Cambridge United 4-1 HI VFF
At the end of day 2, the group stages were over for the U13 and U14 squads. The U14 progressed into the Top 3 (league basis) with a 100% record after four games.
The U13’s on the other hand had to settle for runners up in their group behind AAB Aalborg following their three wins from four games, meaning they were playing to finish a respectful 7th place on day three.
The tired bodies, tired minds, soaring heat and long days meant that it was an early night on the Friday! Plenty of water, food, rest and stretching were the orders that evening as well as another team meeting to reflect and prepare for what would be the most difficult part of the tournament on Saturday.
The squads left the hostel on the next morning filled with great excitement for what the final day’s football would bring. The U12 squad went off to Norhalne (a small village 25 minutes from Aalborg) and the U13 and U14 squad heading off to AAB Aalborg’s Training Centre to see if they could come back with silverware!
The U12’s won their first game of the day 2-1, which meant they had finished their group in a very respectable second place and would be playing for 3rd or 4th position out of 24 Teams.
Unfortunately, the ‘young ones’ ran out of steam in their last game and were on the end of a 4-2 defeat. Coaches Jake and Dario voiced to them, the importance of being on the right end of the small margins in the crucial games. Although we were pretty pleased with the lads overall, in order to take their game to the next level and be on the winners podium, the finer details will need to be worked on during training and games in the coming months!
Cambridge United 2-1 Jetsmark IF
Cambridge United 2-4 OKS
The U13 squad managed by Jonny Martin, were doing their utmost to finish day three positively and were aiming to go the whole tournament with only losing their first game to AAB Aalborg, who would turn out to be the defeated finalists.
This target began well with an excellent 3-1 win, having been a goal down at half time. That was followed by a great second performance gave. Unfortunately for Jonny and the boys they couldn’t quite achieve this and lost to the solitary goal in their final game leaving them 8th out of 24.
VJS Vantaa 1-3 Cambridge United
Cambridge United 0-1 Orgryte
It was therefore left to the oldest squad – the U14’s to try and replicate what the U15’s had achieved last season at the Norhalne Elite Cup and bring the Winner’s Trophy back to the Abbey!
A group of three meant two wins or a possible four points out of six would have made this possible.
First up for the U’s was Premier League side Crystal Palace. A team that possessed pace, power and had won all four games with a plus 19 goal difference.
The game finished 0-2 to the South Londoners and although the lads were bitterly disappointed, myself and Dom Knighton (Coach) were pretty pleased with the performance. Although Palace had more of the possession, the lads really tried to take on board, our deeper counter attacking tactics against our opponents. Although 2-0 sounds pretty self-explanatory, a goal just before half time seemed to take the wind out of our sails and we had to change something going into the second half.
As long as the game stayed 1-0 we always looked a threat on the break and we were happy with our shape and defending as units – something we hadn’t been forced to work on during the early part of the tournament. Palace then made it two with five minutes to go and the result fizzled away.
The next game was another battle of the Brits against East Anglian neighbours Norwich City. After a quick lunch and warm up we were back to it, only an hour after the final whistle went against Crystal Palace. Unfortunately, the lads couldn’t pick themselves up after giving their all in the game prior and although we hit the post twice and had one cleared off the line in the first half, Norwich took a 2-0 lead into the break.
Sometimes, you have to hold your hands up and say we were beaten by a better team, look at why and learn from it. On three really hot days, it was maybe one game too much given the recovery time from game one on day three.
That said, we must congratulate Norwich City who went onto win the tournament following a late goal against Crystal Palace to draw 2-2 and win the tournament on goal difference.
Loads gained and loads to learn as is always the case on tour with games that come thick and fast!
A major reason for attending so many great European Tournaments!
Cambridge United 0-2 Crystal Palace
Norwich City 4-0 Cambridge United
The Amber Army finished with a bronze medal in the end!
With the sun still beaming and the lads still in high spirits we walked to the beach on Saturday evening for guess what? – that’s right a ‘kick about’ well in actual fact it was a 20aside match involving staff and players, skins v shirts! This as well as building sand castles and singing Cambridge United songs and running in the sea.
Going on tour gives the players such a wide variety of learning experiences both on and off the field in so many different ways. It is fantastic!
Our U9’s travelled to Leverkusen this weekend, to take part in another top European tournament, along with our U10 – U13 players making the journey up north to play Manchester United in their final games of the season on Sunday. Please keep your eyes peeled for the U9 report on the website for when Adam Bridgeford and more stars of the future return!
Wishing everyone a great summer!
Youth Development Phase Lead Coach