|02.06.2014 Under-14s finish sixth in Holland|
|Monday, 02 June 2014 19:58|
At the end of May Norwich City Academy sent an Under-14s squad to take part in the two-day international tournament in the small town of Woudenberg. near Utrecht in the Netherlands. This is the home town club of Ricky van Wolfswinkel, his father being a youth coach at the local club. Woudenberg can certainly boast a fine sports complex with several grass and synthetic pitches and a large club house providing an ideal setting for a this top quality tournament.
With the tournament only a two and a half hour drive from my home in Germany, it gave another chance for me to reawaken the FONCY past and report on the young Canaries abroad. I was warmly received by the coaching team of Jimmy Unwin and the irrepressible Greg Crane together with physio Chris “van” Hedges and organiser-in-chief James Bemment , not forgetting of course their young charges.
Each tournament game consisted of two 15-minute halves and City had three games to play on the opening afternoon. (Photos from the opening ceremony)
First up was FC Bruges, who as it turned out went on to win the tournament. Norwich found their feet quickly in a tight and competitive game, giving as good as they got against their Belgian opponents. The young Canaries managed to take a 1:0 lead but Bruges had plenty about them and pulled a goal back for the game to finish a 1:1 draw. Not a bad start to the day. (Photos from the match against Bruges)
The second game saw Norwich face Dutch side AZ Alkmaar. With coach Greg Crane urging his young side on, City twice went ahead in match and led 2:1 early in the second-half. All the more disappointing then, that defensive errors saw the Canaries fall to a 3:2 defeat in a game they really should have taken something from. (Photos from the match against Alkmaar)
The third and final game of the day saw City up against another Dutch side in Den Haag. Norwich went into the game full of intent following the disappointment against Alkmaar and made the best possible start, taking an early lead. It wasn’t to stay that way though, a big and spirited Den Haag side fought back to lead 3:1 at half-time. Even if the Den Haag equaliser was hotly disputed with the assistant referee refusing to acknowledge an off-side position, City had failed to continue to compete having taken the lead. Following a spirited half-time team talk from Greg Crane, the second-half was certainly much improved, but the Canaries ended up losing the match 5:2. (Photos from the match)
It was a disappointing end to the first day, which at least results-wise had been disappointing in total. But as the coaching staff were at pains to point out, a foreign tournament offers a multitude of opportunities to learn, the results are only part of the Academy game.
The evening gave the travelling party the opportunity to take a walk around the Dutch FA headquarters in Zeist, situated almost directly next to their hotel.(photos from the evening) The walk around the impressive facility also gave Greg Crane any myself a chance to reflect on past tours from years ago when Crane was himself a player in the Academy. Who can forget for example his heroics in Denmark as he recovered from concussion in an earlier game to score the equaliser in the Under-18 Lyngby tournament Semi-final against Charlton Athletic? Coach that day for Charlton was Mark Robson, now of course part of Neil Adams coaching staff at Carrow Road.
Returning to the present, Jimmy Unwin and Crane were keen to see their young side respond after a disappointing first day. Their overnight team talks obviously did the trick. Despite a very early start for a 9.40am kick-off, the Canaries were awake from the start in their first game of the day against Dutch side Cambuur. With Ricky van Wolfswinkel an interested spectator, Norwich dominated the first half but failed to find the net and the teams turned round all square at 0:0. That all changed in the second-half with Norwich opening the scoring from the penalty spot after a handball. In a furious few minutes City extended their lead to 3:0 before some curious refereeing decisions helped Cambuur back into the game which ended 3:1 to Norwich. (Photos from the match)
Opponents in the last group game were Odense BK from Denmark. Both sides needed a win to improve their position in the group and an exciting end-to-end game developed. City managed to go in at half-time 2:1 up, only to concede an equaliser early in the second-half. This time however Norwich didn’t stop playing and were rewarded with a 3:2 win and third place in the group. (Photos from the game)
Norwich had certainly turned things around with an excellent second day and wanted to finish that off with a win in the 5th place play-off against Mechelen from Belgium. Benelux expert Chris “van” Hedges helped in the build up to the game with the information that “Mechelen is a village in Belgium”. There were some tired legs now on the pitch against the team from a city with a population of over 80,000:-) City took the lead on a hot afternoon before Mechelen equalised from a free-kick. Norwich vehemently claimed that the goal should be disallowed with a Belgian player interfering with play in an offside position in front of the Norwich keeper. But the referee allowed the goal stand and it came to a penalty shoot-out after a 1:1 draw. Despite an acrobatic save by Norwich’s reserve (Under-12) keeper, City lost out in the shoot-out and finished the tournament in a creditable sixth place. (Photos from match and shoot-out)
As ever these tournaments are all about learning and gaining experience in a football education and this well organized and evenly balanced tournament was certainly alsoa success in that respect.
Many thanks to the coaching staff and players for making it an enjoyable weekend, I look forward to seeing some of you again soon!
Academy Squad: Aaron Akyeampong, Dante Baptiste, Sam Blackiston, Sonny Carey, Jordan Forbes, Connor Parsons, Josh Pond, Oliver Saunders, Jaden Thompson-Brissett, Karol Wengrzik, Bradley Catton, Samuel Dodden, Rhys Howell, Bilal Kamal, Glenn Middleton, Theo Sackey-Mensah.
Academy Staff: JimmyUnwin, Greg Crane, Chris Hedges, James Bemment.
Report and photos from Paul Standley (twitter: @germancanary)