Coaching - Terry Venables

What You Will Learn:

  • Different approaches to coaching.

Later in the manual there is a look at top coaches and teams but we will start here by looking at a few general coaching points from top coaches. One of the best coaches in the UK is Terry Venables. The following points are taken from his autobiography) regarding coaching.

There are 3 styles of coaching: 1.) autocratic - I'm the boss do as I say (Peter Reid), 2.) laissez faire - do what you think is best (Kevin Keegan), or 3.) democratic - a mixture between the two (Eriksson). All can work but democratic gets the best from both.

Will players listen to tactics? Terry Venables points out that

Players are quite prepared to listen to someone lecturing them on tactics.

Will players try to improve technique? Younger players are usually keen to develop and work on their technique as are many older players. However, Terry Venables points out that many players do not want to listen to advice on technique. Venables does not like this attitude as in other sports a great deal of attention is focussed on addressing flaws in technique (golf for example) and in this sport even professional players are more than happy to be coached.

The problem with laissez faire coaching is emphasises by this headline Furious Players Demand Extra Training from Keegan to Beat Drop (Times April 2004). The article stated:

Keegan was astonished by the revolt but he was quick to agree to their proposal of extra training. The players are also understood to have urged Keegan to name his team earlier than normal to allow them to work on set-pieces and on the team shape, which they believe has been undermined by a laissez faire attitude.

The problem of lack of organization and a laissez faire attitude was highlighted by fellow strugglers Leeds captain (May 2nd Guardian 2004), Dominic Matteo, who observed that one of the key reasons for Leeds relegation was they were less well organised than other clubs.

Autocratic style denies the positive contribution of players and indeed other coaches. It can make players feel undervalued.

Involving the players is a good thing because it means everyone's involved and that's why we've got such a terrific atmosphere in the camp --Steve McClaren, assistant coach of England. McClaren credited the England manager for listening to players in a team meeting ahead of a game against Switzerland. There were suggestions... The England squad forced Eriksson to abandon his diamond formation in favour of a flat-flour midfield. Eriksson listened to the players.

There's been a big debate about this and it's brought a smile to our faces. Sven picks the team and it's a bad manager who doesn't listen to their players and his staff, is autocratic and says "this is the way to go". Eriksson has the tactical prowess to beat Croatia in Group B tonight. - Metro 21st June 2004. He was right.

Coaching requires:

Roy Keane, in his autobiography, talks about football and the excellent Brian Clough in the following way. Every football match consists of a thousand little things which, added together, amount to the final score. The manager who can't spot the details in the forensic matter that Clough could is simply bluffing. The game is full of bluffers, banging on about "rolling your sleeves up", "having the right attitude" and "taking some pride in the shirt youre wearing". A manager or coach who trades in those cliched generalizations - and there are many of them - is missing the point. Brian Clough dealt in detail, facts, specific incidents, and invariably he got it right. Playing for him was demanding. I love it.

Good coaches/managers in soccer are no different from good coaches/managers in other organisations. Football is not so different.

Below I have taken an article by Richard Scase, (The Observer, 14th October, 2001) in which he looks at the style of our highly regarded Swedish Manager, Sven Goran Eriksson. This sums up what makes a good coach/manager.

Eriksson's style is very different from the barstool approach of most English managers. He is the product of a cultural environment which has, as its starting point, different assumptions about what motivates people. From these emerge distinctive leadership approaches, organisation structures and ways of doing business. Eriksson consults players yet maintains control. In the 2004 Euro Championships,

Beckham revealed The diamond formation was mentioned before the game but we all decided that 4-4-2 was the best thing. The most important thing is that they listen to us. He sat us all down and asked us what we felt best doing. He said "I'm the manager and I'll obviously make the final decision, but I'll listen to you as well."

Successful teams and players need the 3 C's in soccer.

CONFIDENCE - If players know what is expected then this gives them confidence and confidence is an essential characteristic of a successful player and a successful team.

CONCENTRATION - especially when defending is essential. A player slightly out of position can cost a goal and in a game of so few goals, around 3 per game at top level but Chelsea won 16 games 1-0 this season, this can cost the game.

COMMUNICATION - no organisation or team can work well without those with a better view or in a better position letting others know.

We now need to look at the tactics that give players confidence when attacking and the defensive tactics that require concentration.

Good teams have players who make good decisions. They will have solid well organised defenses that play zonally in open play but may mix this with "man for man" to defend free kicks/set plays. All successful teams have a couple of players who can score goals and who are capable of beating an opponent. A team needs tactics to get the best out of these and all other players. Successful teams are not bigger or faster (this is proved by Finkelstein). Neither do successful teams tackle more often or better, with Finkelstein pointing out

Successful teams do not necessarily tackle better, the number of tackles also appears a matter of style rather than being either positively or negatively linked to success.

In good teams players understand their role when they are in one of three stages - attacking, defending and the transition. On each theory page the attacking and defensive priorities are identified in the bottom right corner.

The need to use the transition quickly is emphasized by ex-Wolves manager David Jones regarding the ball -

"we didn't move it quickly enough. We allowed them to get back into shape that was difficult to break down...we were left shooting waywardly from long distance."

Andy Roxburgh (Champions Magazine Dec 2004) sees rapid counter attack

He points out that In Euro 2004 forty per cent of goals from open play came from counter attack and in the Champions League thirty per cent. It's all about the speed the ball is used in the transition. The transition is often not about tackling it's about stealing the pass then moving the ball quickly.

Possession in itself isn't a good indicator of success - Porto (Champions League winners 2004) were twelfth best in the Competition (incidentally they were also one of the smallest sides). Milan finalists in 2005 had 47% possession per match, Liverpool the other finalists 48%. In 2003/4 Deportivo had sixty per cent possession and lost 8-3. However, many teams use possession and a slower build up to adopt the tactic of the Brazilians, what Roxburgh calls a Rattlesnake eye, to wait for the opportunity/space to attack quickly. Building with many passes has two effects.

Teams need to work on tactical movements to keep possession and create space if they are to keep the ball.

When defending it is important not to be demoralised if you don't have the ball. In Euro 2004 only Latvia had a lower average possession of ball than winners Greece. They used the ball well when they got it. Be patient!

It is important to realise that tactics do not stay the same throughout a game. They change according to the score, to reflect the opposition, playing conditions and the availability of players. Therefore, a successful team needs a range of tactics: they need to be adaptable and flexible. To have flexibility in the tactics adopted requires flexibility in the type of pass used.

Finally a word about the term bravery. In football bravery is as much about players wanting and offering themselves for the ball when their team are losing or under pressure as it is the big crowd pleasing tackle. It is important to remember this and drive it home to your players as often the big tackler will look down on this other kind of bravery and criticize players who do not get blood on their boots/do big tackles.

The problem is usually that the big tacklers, and often the crowd , criticise other players who do not follow their example run hard and tackle. The Real Madrid assistant manager Mello comments:

of football positioning is everything. That is why I like to emphasis the tactical part of the game. If a player runs too much during a game it is because he has lost his position

With regard to tackling, successful talking and a teams success are not linked as shown earlier. The bigest problem teams face is that players are not tactically organised and able to, especially when behind, create chances. Player that criticise are often the ones who "hide" and don't offer for the ball. Players need confidence and "bottle". Rafael Bentiez critisised his players, after qualifying for the Champions League semi final, for not keeping the ball well enough - not having the "bottle" to pass it and were "belting it long".. Jamie Carragher claimed

everyone was delighted and he (Benitez) was saying we bottled it.

The same argument about bravery also applies to coaches many of whom are too scared and sadly often too ignorant, to play anything other than a safety first game aimed at not losing the game as a pose to winning a game. In the words of Johan Cryuff,

I see defenders booting the ball away shamelessly. We could never play like that.

The current Real Madrid coach (Vanderali Luxemburgo) claims:

If you don't risk anything you don't win.

How do players and coaches work together? The PSV coach Hiddink notes of coaching

it is important to have one or two players on the pitch with whom I can share my tactical thoughts, so they can implement them.

Coaches try to develop players and a team. Some enormously technically gifted players lack tactical awareness and it is down to the coach to develop this. Players who have this football intelligence a term used by Jan Molby (former Liverpool player) to describe Liverpool's Xabi Alonso or to describe Andriy Shevchenko European footballer of the years 2004 improved tactical awareness being credited to coach Ancelotti. Joe Cole has credited Mourinho with developing his game and Steven Gerard is beginning to look like a more complete player thanks to Rafael Bentiez.

At the top level of football, what are a teams objectives? To win is always the most important. The best way to achieve this is:

In defence the key principles are pressuring the ball, covering space and players and closing down. In attack, I like to stress the importance of playing the ball forward where possible, whilst also understanding when a backward pass is more appropriate. Understanding the type of forward pass is also vital: when to play short through midfield and when to release the long ball and when and how to change the nature of attack. Technically, players have to be better, more skilful, all over the pitch as they have less time on the ball. A centre back will need to control the ball and contribute to attacking play. Tord Grip (the England managers assistant) Insight, Winter 2003.

David James, recently interviewed, (June 2004 in the Observer) noted that when he committed a number of errors on crosses the coaching staff did not make a specific effort to improve this. It was the case that it was assumed players have the necessary technique.

Understand that winning is important but developing your players and team is more important.

As a coach you need to recognise that players and teams should not simply be judged against whether they won or not. Why? Well If winning is success then to lose is to fail. All good managers / coaches know that

Winning is always important but not always an accurate measurement of how well a team played. It is better to ask key questions about your team. Did they create chances? Did they have a good team shape defensively and cover the dangerous spaces? Did players make good decisions when in possession? Did you play a mixed passing game? Did you control the tempo of the game.

If you get these thing right then you will win more games than you lose. Alan Irvine Everton's excellent Assistant coach states

I do want to win games but it has to be by controlling games.

If you control a game it means your team can use a variety of tactics and dictate play. Irvine feels it is more important to be winning at the end of a season than the beginning as this shows the team and player shave developed.

Use video analysis.

Dario Gradi (Insight Winter 2004) talks of the importance of Video analysis (sometimes called Performance Analysis)

To be successful teams and players need to be tactically flexible and adaptable. Tactics win games. Successful teams develop players who are able to adapt their game and collectively the teams tactics throughout a game to meet the circumstances, being behind, in front, to deal with the oppositions danger players.

We need to play more with our heads. Foreign players have helped develop tactical knowledge we see them playing in the hole sitting in front of the back 4 (Irvine ). Tactics change during a game teams need to adapt.

Give a team and players time to develop. Try to have a settled side. The team will improve more as players get used to each other and their roles. Keeping a settled side may be at odds with giving all players time on the pitch, and it is always a balance in this area, but the more settled a side the better. If players are used to each other and their role then they will be more successful when going forward as they have good timing. The ball is played to players in space as they arrive. Developing a working relationship with each other is especially important in defence

At any team I have ever had ,the goalkeeper and defenders have not changed much. Paul Sturock (Sheffield Wednesday Manager)-

Getting the defensive "line right" depends on teamwork. With regard to a team in Spain who consistently bought new players each year SKY TV commentator talked of the need for team to have

consistency to develop personality and allow the squad to develop.

Play a mixed passing game and try to win. Teams should adopt a positive approach and try to win as opposed to a more cautious "not to lose" mentality. The mixed passing game includes

The back 4 must be confident on the ball (Irvine).

Good teams can therefore play out from the back and through teams as well as over them. Irvine insists

At under 17 level I wont let the goalkeepers kick the ball and If I'm asking players to play out from the back I've got to accept they will lose goals - if I bawl they might not do it again.

With regard to the midfield Irvine claims-

I wont go back to front" the team and players must be able to create space for themselves and to be comfortable receiving the ball.

Having watched his academy side play I saw excellent movement, variety of passes, and dribbling/taking players on when appropriate. Good coaches encourage players who can beat players to do so and don't critise when they fail. Some forwards and some midfielders in any team need to be able to dribble beat players .

Success is only achieved not only by ...good organisation, but by having exciting players who could beat defenders and score goals. In tight and difficulty situations these players invariably put defenders on the back foot and force defenders deeper to stop the threat of players attacking the space behind them. Patience then becomes critical in trying to prise an opening from which to attack. Good dribblers are essential in any team - remember the best teams possess quite a few. Attackers need the skill to beat a player in a 1v1 situation instead of going backwards . John Peacock National Coach (Insight Autumn Winter 2004)

Both Peacock and Irvine are clear about the need for players must not being afraid of failing. Fear of failing can lead to players not taking opposition players, "hiding"- they do their defensive duty but avoid offering themselves when attacking, not playing through teams but choosing a "safe" ball long and forward instead of a harder and riskier ball that could be more effective ( a threaded pass).

We have now looked at numerous coaching quotes and ideas. The final stage of this section is to look at the summary of all the tactics that are to follow. The tactical team talk.

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