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Friday 28 September 2012

U15 tournament promises all-round education

Annual event taking place at St Georges Park will teach players off and on the pitch

  • Action from last year's International U15 tournament

The fourth edition of the U15 International Tournament starts today where the best English teams will face three teams from the Continent to pit their skills against each other.

The English teams – Arsenal, Everton, West Bromwich Albion, Bolton Wanderers, Fulham, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur - qualified from the U14 national tournament held in February 2012, to secure a place against European giants such as Athletic Bilbao; Sporting Lisbon and Borussia Dortmund.

This tournament takes a new format this year as a residential three-day event leading to one winning team, and it takes place in a new location, the fantastic new National Football Centre, St Georges Park.

Such competition is one strand of the Games Programme of the Youth Development Phase of the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), says Chris Casper, the former Manchester United player who now works for the Premier League’s Youth Development System.

"Players are increasingly encouraged to develop tactical awareness in the game"
Chris Casper

"The Youth Development Phase is when players transition from small-sided games to 11 v 11," said Casper. "There is increased contact time, giving players more opportunity to assemble the tools they will need to be successful as a professional player. There are more technical challenges to deal with and players are increasingly encouraged to develop tactical awareness in the game.

"The various competitions encourage the boys to improve as they play more against other players with similar skills both in this country and abroad. One key objective is to ensure that the first time an English boy plays against a foreign player cannot be in the Premier League.

"What we can be fairly confident of in this phase in the Games Programme is that it has evolved quickly over the last few years and when we host our international competitors they are envious of the range of competitive opportunities that are made available to our Youth Development Phase players."

Aside from the football opportunities they will receive, there is a strong educational element and the tournament will provide the clubs’ players and coaches with a number of additional experiences.

As with previous tournaments, a Learning Zone will run parallel, with the players receiving teaching on elements that will be vital to their career progression, such as media training and video analysis, which also proves valuable to the coaches present, too.

"We are trying to educate young people they are not just footballers turning up to play in a game"
Dean Rastrick

"When you’re involved in tournaments there is always a lot of downtime but the Learning Zone gave a real value to that time when they weren’t playing," said Tottenham youth coach Dean Rastrick. "At this level we are trying to educate young people that they are not just footballers turning up to play in a game.

"They have to understand that they are involved in the elite end of the profession and they have got to be the total package."

As technology advances, players and coaches will also learn how to deliver, receive and utilise videos of the top players to inspire them and to prepare for matches.

The 12 teams are split into three groups of four with the winners of each group and the runner-up with the most points, reaching the semi-finals. The tournament’s final takes place on Sunday, while those who failed to reach the last four play off against each other to determine final rankings. will bring you the results of the tournament on Monday.

Group A
; Aston Villa; Bolton Wanderers; Sporting Lisbon.

Group B
Everton, Tottenham Hotspur,
Chelsea; Borussia Dortmund.

Group C
; Manchester United, West Brom; Athletic Bilbao.

Previous Winners

2009 Fulham & Sunderland
2010 Chelsea & West Ham United
2011 Ajax & Fulham

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Key Points

  • Fourth edition of annual U15 International Tournament starts at St George's Park
  • Eight English teams to pit themselves against four of Europe's top sides
  • Players to learn on and off the pitch as part of Premier League's Youth Development Scheme