Small is beautiful at Milton Keynes… and it could make us play like Brazil
Victory Shield. Seyi Ojo went to Liverpool at 14 for a reported 1.5million. They must be doing something right. What they are doing, it seems, is evolving ideas. Micciche experiments with pitch sizes, with team numbers.
Not in any conventional way. Small areas, small teams, is the modern concept, and that alone is progress.
The days of a 10-year-old standing forlornly in the same size goal as Petr Cech, barely able to clear his penalty area with a goal-kick in ankle-deep mud, are thankfully over.
Contrasting styles: Brazil (above) and England (below) prepare for Wednesday night's friendly
The Football Association has, at last, addressed the in-built flaws in youth football and we should feel the benefits over the next 10 years.
The popular wisdom favours small-sided games in tight spaces. The logic is irrefutable. Players get more touches, more shots, more runs and more scoring opportunities playing four versus four than 11 versus 11.
Their ball skills are improved by
technical five-a-sides, rather than a war of attrition on a man’s size
pitch that promotes only the most athletically dominant.
What Micciche is attempting is stage
two. In the dome at Woughton Park worlds collide. Micciche has his
Under 16 MK Dons team playing 11-a-side, but on a reduced pitch 60
yards long by 40 wide. He has cones on the touchline marking two
invisible offside lines to compress play into the middle third. There is
no time, there is no space. To survive in this game, you really have to
be able to play.
Coaching guru: Micciche's ideas have seen MK Dons' academy flourish
An MK Dons kid is trapped on the near
touchline, ball at his feet, two lads bearing down on him. He gets out
of it with a lovely reverse pass.
‘You see, that, to me, is a goal,’ Micciche says. ‘At this age, you can swing your boot and the ball goes in, and everyone says “well done”. But it’s not necessarily progress, there’s no development. To see him do that, inside, I feel like we’ve scored, because he wouldn’t have tried it six months ago.’
Micciche, as his name suggests, grew up watching Serie A football on a giant satellite dish at home. Roberto Baggio was his man. He is not as steeped in the blood and thunder of English football as his contemporaries.
It is no surprise, either, that he started at Crystal Palace where John Cartwright was academy manager.
Cartwright, now retired, has been
advocating variations of games played in tight spaces for a long time.
From Palace, Micciche moved to Tottenham Hotspur working with Chris
Ramsey before arriving at Milton Keynes under director of youth Mike
Dove, who gave him a blank canvas.
var NREUMQ=NREUMQ||;NREUMQ.push([“mark”,”firstbyte”,new Date().getTime()])Server Issue An exception occurred processing JSP page /WEB-INF/jsp/channel-items/standardMod.jsp at line 56
Stacktrace: production 75-build-357
We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties with this section of our site. We are doing everything we can to resolve this as soon as possible.
Other sections of the site are not affected by this. You can continue to navigate through other pages.
Back to Mail Online home
Back to the page you came from
var GOOG_FIXURL_LANG = 'en_GB';
var GOOG_FIXURL_SITE = 'http://www.dailymail.co.uk/';
There are five pitches of varying sizes at Woughton Park and academy players of all ages get to use every one. Team numbers vary, too. Each player gets a turn training and playing with boys between one and three years older, and all have a homework file with a list of improvements. The most radical thoughts, however, involve space.
‘A lot of coaches don’t like limiting the space,’ admits Micciche. ‘They think it looks messy. Sometimes it does because we’re asking a lot technically. You might not always get quality, but when you do it is the highest quality.
‘And when they go out onto a full-size pitch again, it feels as if they have got all the time in the world.’
We watched a game together. Milton Keynes Dons versus Forest School. Pitch dimensions of 60 x 40 yards, two quarters nine-a-side, two quarters 11-a-side to feel the difference.
Players who looked competent when the team numbers were reduced were suddenly tested as room on the pitch shrank. There was a surprising impact physically.
‘It speeds the game up, but players then need to hold off defenders because they haven’t the space to simply outrun them,’ Micciche explains. ‘Also, in order to work through a compact space, they will need to move their feet and body quickly.
‘The intensity is great so they need to react and think faster. It becomes exhausting, but it makes them clever at finding space.’
A shot rattles against a crossbar.
‘The game has shifted,’ Micciche continues. ‘Nobody gets the ball in splendid isolation any more. It’s like rush hour in midfield, you might get 20 players in 40 yards of space, and the defenders are as fast and athletic as the forwards.
‘We need to recreate what these players are going to face in the future.’
The last time Brazil visited England, in
2007, the performance of Kaka in the heart of the play stood out. No
matter how many opponents surrounded him, he demanded the ball and his
team-mates were happy to provide it. He always found a pass. Spain and
Barcelona have that same quality.
Star man: Kaka was outstanding for Brazil at Wembley in 2007
‘We fail under pressure,’ Micciche adds. ‘That is a fundamental problem in English football. Once the game becomes tight, our approach lets us down.’
The first time Micciche tried out his theories, the opponents were a big Championship club. ‘It was an Under 12 game, a friendly, and I brought the dimensions of the pitch in, used smaller goals,’ he recalls. ‘We were 4-1 down at half-time and a couple of our kids were in tears.
‘I said that this type of football was going to ask different questions of them, that they had to think about how they would answer those questions.
‘We turned it around, and won in the second half. The next day they put in a complaint about us.’
Perhaps that is why as well as the standard league fixtures — MK Dons win some and lose some, like all academy teams — Micciche is happy to accept fixtures from stronger clubs, strong schools or even good men’s amateur teams.
Quick thinking: Micciche advocates playing on pitches of different sizes to help youngsters develop
‘It is important to play in as many
types of football as possible, with and against players of different
strengths and abilities,’ he says. ‘You need to challenge them all the
time. Sometimes we won’t have as many players on the field as the
opposition, or I’ll take my Under 16s to play a proper men’s team.
People say, “you can’t do that” but they learn from it.’
It is possible that, after tonight, it will again be said that English footballers are inferior. That the technique of the Brazilians is a class away.
There will be analysis and much you will have heard before.
Too many foreign players in the Premier League, an absence of passion for international football. We could tuck it away in a file marked: The Usual.
So explain this. Increasingly, there are foreign coaches who have passed through the English game, like Gus Poyet at Brighton and Hove Albion or Roberto Martinez at Wigan Athletic.
Pointing the way: Roberto Martinez has brought fluid, passing football to Swansea and Wigan
And their teams play. Martinez is the father of modern Swansea City, Poyet has taken Brighton to the brink of the Championship play-off places.
Neither developed teams in the lower leagues that were stuffed full of foreign imports. They took local players and improved them technically.
Martinez signed Ashley Williams from Stockport County. Will Buckley, one of Brighton’s leading lights, came from Rochdale via Watford.
Martinez and Poyet encouraged bog standard Football League players to play a high quality game. So why can’t this be done in international football, with players of twice the ability No doubt we’ll be asking those questions later.
Although if we did it earlier, the answers might be easier to find.
Hypocrisy rules for forgetful Joey
Joey Barton was sent off for Marseille at the weekend and took to his favourite medium to voice his displeasure. ‘Players who roll around when nobody touches them should be banned,’ he wrote. ‘I hate cheats.’ Gervinho of Arsenal, sent off after Barton play-acted, may have views on this subject. And if he can stop laughing he will surely give them to us.
Crying wolf: Barton sees red for Marseille (above) … just as Gervinho did for Arsenal in 2011 (below)
Sturridge highlights our problem with diving
On television and in just about every newspaper, Daniel Sturridge was the man of the match after Liverpool’s draw with Manchester City. And he did have an outstanding game. He also, however, committed one of the most blatant dives of the season, for which he was booked. If that had been Luis Suarez, the chorus of disapproval would have been deafening.
Instead, Sturridge collected his bottle of champagne and his printed accolades without too much fuss. So let’s not pretend we really care about cheating in football. If it mattered to us, there is no way Sturridge could have been the hero.
(And one last thing, there was also no reason for Liverpool to put the ball into touch on Edin Dzeko’s behalf on Sunday. That Sturridge scored Liverpool’s first goal while the Manchester City striker lay stricken is of no consequence. He wasn’t seriously hurt and there was no fear of head trauma. If City had won possession and wanted to put the ball out, up to them. But Liverpool had every right to play to the whistle, and Roberto Mancini’s complaints are groundless).
Booked: Sturridge looks to the floor after taking a tumble against Man City
Wolves must realise they're in a dogfight
As Wolverhampton Wanderers plummeted towards the Championship last season, chief executive officer Jez Moxey insisted the club had the foundations in place for success. ‘This season will not create a situation where we are knocked off course from our medium to long-term objectives,’ he soothed.
Objective No 1 was to establish Wolves in the Premier League. At last look, Wolves were two points off relegation from tier two, 21st of 24. They have been passed by Ipswich Town, managed by Mick McCarthy, the manager they sacked a year ago.
On the day McCarthy took over at Portman Road, Ipswich were bottom and Wolves eighth. Still, it’s good to know the executive management have a plan. Otherwise, it would be easy to imagine they don’t know what they are doing.
Alarming slide: Wolves are just two points clear of safety in the Championship
Lock up Gillingham yob and put the ref on gardening leave
There is a very simple solution to the attack on Wycombe Wanderers goalkeeper Jordan Archer at the Priestfield Stadium on Monday night. It’s called five years. If the punishment on the Gillingham fan who jumped Archer was appalling, nobody would ever do it again.
As for referee Roger East, who booked Archer for kicking the ball away in frustration, even though he showed admirable restraint towards the pitch invader in the aftermath, he should be given the rest of the season off to consider his actions. Anyone so out of touch with human emotion should not be in charge of anything more testing than the roses in his garden.
Attack: Jordan Archer was jumped by a teenage Gillingham 'fan'
BCCI stoop to new low
Responding to the 2-1 home Test defeat, the Board of Control for Cricket in India have banned a group of English county players from gaining experience on the spinning wickets of the subcontinent. The Global Cricket School in Pune has been told that no foreign cricketers can use the facilities without permission. The performance of Joe Root in the final Test in Nagpur appears to have been the clincher. Lovely, aren’t they And yet still cricket kowtows to the BCCI.