Wednesday 03 October 2012
Read more about Youth Development in our 2011/12 Annual Report
Chelsea claimed their second Premier League Under-15 International Tournament title after winning the fourth edition of the competition last weekend.
The three-day event, held at the Football Association’s brand new St George’s Park facility in Burton-Upon-Trent, pitted together the best sides from England and Europe including Manchester United, Bolton Wanderers, Aston Villa, Sporting Lisbon, Athletic Bilbao and Fulham.
After topping a group containing Everton, Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea defeated Arsenal on penalties in the semi-finals before overcoming West Bromwich Albion 3-2 in the final.
This competitive event forms one part of the Games Programme of the Youth Development Phase of the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), which aims to improve player development by helping them make the transition to 11 v 11 matches and putting the best players up against the best.
"If you take all the factors... what we ended up with was a really fabulous three days"
- Terry Westley
For Premier League Lead Club Support Manager Terry Westley, the event was a success for coaches and players alike.
"This is the fourth year of the tournament and the standard has really improved," he told premierleague.com. "We have had some really positive feedback from the coaches involved.
"What really hit you was the standard was at a really high level. Dortmund's coaches told me that our players technically were far better than their players. The semi-finals had four English clubs and they were highly technical football matches.
"They were very continental-type matches, with a lot of possession. I have been involved in youth football for 33 years and I was watching them thinking, 'My goodness how far we have come'.
"If you take all the factors, the European teams taking part, being at a great venue such as St George’s Park and the best players playing against each other, what we ended up with was a really fabulous three days."
The residential weekend, with players staying at local hotels, was not only about the action and competition on the pitch, as it also helped reinforce the key EPPP objective of developing both the player and the person.
Westley added: "A club's first team and under-21 players will be staying in hotels and nice venues when they travel and the way the players behave and conduct themselves is very important.
"I was interested in seeing how the boys behaved over the whole weekend and I was really impressed. This kind of event never happened years ago and we have got to make sure that the young players realise just how fortunate they are and how far the Games Programme in the Premier League has travelled in a very short time."
As well as the tournament itself, there was also a strong education emphasis over the three days with players taking part in media training and video analysis sessions.
Team managers were able to conduct team meetings with the help of a match DVD and a raft of statistical analysis while Sky Sports were on hand to help players practise their interview techniques.
"Everything is geared to that elite performer, giving them as much help as possible," said Westley. "Why should a youngster go and train where they haven’t got the right balls or equipment or the teacher is no good? That is not what we are after. Everything has to be right.
"That combination of the Premier League, the Football Association and the clubs working together – you are on the right tracks"
"But in return the player has got to be respectful: he has got to work hard, have his own aspirations; he has got to have some desire himself and once you get that package all together you have got a chance."
Westley added that the event was of real value to the Premier League's Club Support Managers in their work in developing and assisting academy coaches.
The Club Support Managers are employed by the Premier League to assist and support coaches in clubs across the country in all phases of the EPPP Performance Pathway.
"This event gave the chance for club support managers to see the coaching staff working with the boys under a bit more pressure," he said. "It was a learning process for the coaches because they are never put in a situation where it’s international tournament football. There was a little bit more on it.
"Their development as coaches is also under scrutiny and with us being there as the tournament we can now work with them on the things we saw."
Westley also had praise for the St George’s Park venue, England’s new state-of-the-art training base which was opened this year.
"It's an outstanding facility," concluded Westley. "The standard of pitches was excellent and the hospitality was superb, they went to a lot of trouble to make sure everything was right for us.
"That combination of the Premier League, the Football Association and the clubs working together – you are on the right tracks, you’re winning."