ACADEMY | MATTHIAS PAPE CUP | YOUNG U’S IN EUROPE
Youth Development Phase Lead Coach Tom Pell reports on the Under 15’s recent tour to Magdeburg, Germany for the Matthias Pape Cup indoor tournament.
I feel a little under pressure writing this report on our trip to the Matthias Pape Cup 2017, in Magdeburg Germany due to the fact that whilst I am typing away to inform you all of our brilliant weekend, Henry Winter from The Times, is sat next to me in the Academy office making his notes prior to the first team’s Third Round FA Cup tie against Leeds United FC. I’m hoping he doesn’t ask me what I am up to…
Anyway, whilst our Schoolboy fixture program doesn’t start until Sunday 15th January, we thought we would make the most of the gap in the program to take some of our youngsters to play some top opposition on the continent.
Whilst our U12 squad took part in the Euro Cup, in Heiden Germany, Adam Bridgeford, Guy Watts and myself took some of our eldest schoolboys to play in the U15 Matthias Pape Cup, Magdeburg Germany around an hour and a half’s drive from the German capital.
If anyone can show me a better U15 Indoor Tournament in Europe for atmosphere, standard of play, facilities both on and off the field and kind hospitality throughout the weekend I would love to see it!
Having travelled on Friday from Luton to Berlin Schonefeld Airport, we were a short bus journey away from our accommodation for the weekend. We received a very warm welcome from the volunteers of the tournament who have experienced our well-mannered lads from previous years.
After an early evening of table tennis and pool, it was time to have a meeting and really start to prepare ourselves for the following day where we knew we would need to be at our very best to qualify!
Following the very well put together Opening Ceremony we were ready to go. In our first game, we played FC Augsburg, who we had beaten 1-0 in the quarter final last season, so we knew we were going to be in for a tough game. After a couple of individual lapses in concentration we were 2-0 down and chasing the game, which is very difficult to come back from in 12 minutes games. In the end having to chase the game, we were beaten comfortably 5-1 by a very strong opponent.
As always in tournament football to lose your first game is tough and you have to try and put that right straight away, so what a great game to do it in an hour later against the host club FC Magdeburg in front of just over 3,500 fans, none of which were from the Amber Army section. The lads performed really well, to show excellent team work and after a few moments of magic ran out 2-0 winners!
The next game was now crucial for us to secure our place in the automatic qualification places for day two. Hannover 96 were the opponents and having not taken our chances we were punished by our own technical error and lost the game 0-1. We could not fault the boy’s effort or application in this fixture but one mistake proved costly.
Borussia Mönchengladbach were our opponents in our final group game. The Champions League giants were a little too much for us in all honesty and although the score line flattered the opponents slightly, we didn’t quite have enough defensive solidity and were punished for the smallest mistakes. They wrapped the game up late on, 3-1 to the Germans.
So after all group games were played we were 4th in our group of 5. This meant that we went into a play-off round the following day to try and make up the bottom part of the top 16 going into the second round.
Having sat down with the lads that night we had all discussed and agreed, that on day two we needed to ensure we showed more spark and creativity with our attacking play, as well as trying to get the balance right between getting more bodies forward but not leaving ourselves open upon transition.
The other thing was – lose our first game and we are out!
As staff when our players are put in this rare pressured environment it is always great to see who steps forward and leads the team in any way they can.
We were extremely pleased that the day started with a 4-1 victory over FC Freiburg and the questions posed to the lads from the previous night’s meeting were answered at the first opportunity.
However, the real test was now about to start as again it was win and you are into the Quarter Final, or lose and we are out.
FC Koln were the team to face at around 10.30am on Sunday morning in the second round fixture. They had booked a place in the second round, by topping group B which included the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, VfL Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich, so it would be no easy task.
Well, what a game and definitely the highlight of the Tour – the lads were brilliant from start to finish. We started the game on the front foot, looked confident and showed real good defensive discipline. In a tight game with few chances, the undoubted favourites went ahead with a deflected goal off the boards (to the side of the goal). However, we got straight back in the game with a fantastic strike to equalize. And so it went to penalties and with the takers keeping their cool, Craig our goalkeeper became the hero with two magnificent saves! FC Koln out – The U’s through to the Quarter final. 1-1 (4-3 CUFC on pens).
The Quarter Final stage meant we faced Borussia Monchengladbach for the second time and we knew that if we were to progress to the Semi’s then we would have to be at our maximum. Unfortunately, although we achieved this going forward, we were definitely not defensively and paid the price for a lack of concentration. After a lot of huff and puff we were knocked out 4-2.
Albeit disappointed in being defeated in the quarters, the beauty of getting through to the last eight, we then had more games against top class opposition to look forward to, literally straight afterwards.
Hamburg were up first and we found it difficult to get over the disappointment of our previous defeat in all honesty and having to pick ourselves up straight away 20 minutes later proved difficult against such top opposition. A 3-1 defeat left the lads feeling a little bit down having performed so well earlier on in the day.
Whilst Hamburg went onto play Borussia Dortmund in the 5th/6th place, we had one of Europe’s biggest clubs – Bayern Munich!
If I tell you that teams such as Spurs, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Hamburg, Werder Bremen, Vfl Wolfsburg didn’t even make it to the Semi Finals, you start to see the calibre of opposition that we were competing with!
The Bundesliga leaders punished any kind of mistake that we made in possession and ran out 0-5 victors. Although, the score line definitely flattered Bayern, the lads learnt a valuable lesson in ball retention and how to defend better upon transition.
Although the last three games did not go as we had both wanted or expected, there were so many things to take from the tour, both off the pitch but mainly on it when the level goes up a notch or two.
The boys were exposed to several situations over the weekend, which if they can take away with them for the rest of the season and beyond then it makes our job all the more satisfying.
To play in front of over 3,500 spectators indoors, where there is no hiding place to get on the ball in a 5v5 format, to play games and have to execute the right techniques both in and out of possession at such high tempo and mostly have to show the character and will to win when the pressure is on. These are just a few things that the lads will have benefitted from and that’s just on the pitch.
As ever we take an extremely holistic approach with all of our boys, so to finish the tour we wanted to continue to expose them to a few things that they may remember for some time to come. They therefore went on a tour of Berlin, where they got to see the infamous Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate and be educated on several snippets of information regarding the German capital both past and present.
Another great weekend, one of which I am sure all of our young players that attended will remember for a long time!
Youth Development Phase Lead Coach