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U14 Season Review 2018-19

The date was Sunday 7th October 2018 and we had just finished a match away to Stotfold, a match that we had contrived to lose 3-2.  I remember clearly as I went over to limply shake the opposition coach’s hand.  I was dejected.  Dejected that we had outplayed Stotfold, competed gamely against them and had the chances to win the match…….but lost.  I also clearly remember the opposition assistant coach saying to me ‘It’s tough, but don’t be down.  You guys played well and were really unlucky’.  Scant consolation! 

The season was 5 games old.   We had handsomely won our first game (but not without a scare after going 2-0 down) and now had lost the next 4 games!  All that pre-season optimism seemed to be draining away!  All those minutes spent discussing the new season and new formation with Zahir now seemed fruitless. 

Due to the common problem of having a midfield and strike heavy team and being low on defenders we had decided before the start of the season that we would play 3-5-2 this year.  That in itself was a big move as prior to this season, and since we had moved to 11 a side, we had only ever played 4-4-2.  After the 3rd game we had reverted back to 4-4-2 and had still lost the next two games.  So, some hard introspective was required.

This was a turning point in our season for many reasons.  Firstly, we decided to stick to our principles and do what we thought was the best option for the players we had.  So, we reverted back to 3-5-2!  We also learnt that as coaches’ we need to keep positive.  That positivity filters down to the kids (not that our boys are short of confidence anyway!)  We learnt a lot about ourselves and a lot about the boys. 

Over the course of the next 6 months we played a further 19 games.  We only lost one more game all season and that too was back at the start of December.  The transformation was complete but not surprising.  We have had a lot of these boys for a good number of years now and they have shown over the seasons’ maturity as well as ability and above all a comradery that has seen them grow into a successful unit. 

The fantastic run that we went on did not quite get us to the top of the league (the division was very competitive and had 5-6 teams all vying with each other over the season).  But it meant we finished the season in joint 2nd place and more importantly have been promoted to Division 1. 

The boys will now have the opportunity to test themselves against the best teams in the county for their age group.  We know too well that the step up to Division 1 is a big one.  The challenge ahead is massive, but it is a challenge the boys are looking forward to.  The team has already shown great maturity and courage and these qualities as well as hard work and maybe a little bit of luck will be required for next season. 

Success should not always be determined by how many trophies and matches are won but success should also be measured by how a team progresses and grows together.  For that reason, come rain or shine this team will always be a successful team!

The Coach’s work is never done

And…… breathe……….

So another season draws to a close and chance for the coaches to put their feet up for the summer, recharge their ageing batteries and muster any remaining strength to come back in July and start all over again!  Let’s be honest we do this because we want to.  We’re passionate about giving these boys a chance to play.  We want the boys to develop into fully rounded footballers. 

So when the season does draw to a close it is always with mixed feelings…..  relief that the morning dash from Watford to Bedford/Stotfold/Kempston/Dunstable (all via Blundell Road, Luton to pick up some more boys!) is not going to happen for a few Sundays at least.

There’s usually a tinge of sadness that another year has gone by and the boys are another year older (already half of them are now taller than the coaches!!) so no doubt by the time the new season starts a few more will have gone past us!

And plenty of planning!  If you’re coaches like Zahir and I then talking about the new season is what takes over for these next few weeks.  When shall we start pre-season training?  How many pre-season tournaments are we going to play?  What new ideas can we put to the boys for the coming season?  Do we need to strengthen any particular part of the team? 

This year another very serious question we are asking is how can we give all these boys a game?  Sometimes at training 20 plus boys were turning up and we can only name 16 in any match day squad.  The interest for this particular team this season has been immense and hopefully that will continue!

But we want to try and give as many boys a chance to play as possible.  So we are still thinking about the option of playing two teams in the league.  Or 1 team on Saturday and 1 on Sunday.  However as with all these options we need help!  We need help in the form of parents wanting to get involved.  The more volunteers we have (cos that’s all we all are!) the more we can do and hopefully the more boys can get a game on a weekend. 

So you might think once the season is over we just sit around drink tea/coffee (when not fasting) and chill.  But we don’t quite do that.  A coach’s work is never done.  Like a teacher there’s planning of the training sessions to also consider. 

But ultimately we do it because we want to and we enjoy it.  And we do it because it means these boys get a chance to play football, decent competitive football every weekend and it means they get to train every week.  That will help them through life and hopefully teach them values and lessons they will always look back on. 

When I set out to write this article it was meant to be the u14 season review….  But I guess that will have to wait for another day! Adios!

Presenting the Dream

Saturday 27th April a day to remember for many members of our community. The decision to schedule a presentation awards ceremony before Ramadan could have been a costly error both for the club’s reputation and income. The backdrop has always been south Asians don’t take football seriously and would rather attend a wedding. Well this Saturday afternoon event for Luton United Football Club at Luton Sixth Form College put paid to that myth. South Asians would support their children and attend events given the chance. While the previous weekend was a glorious one, this weekend was rather windy and as one commentator said “real football weather”. Occasions like this are always a nervous affair, will people turn up and will they attend on time. And on cue we had our first guests arrive 10 minutes before the expected time and then the rush of parents and children. All to capture that dream of being in the spotlight. In true Asian fashion preceding’s had their inevitable delay. Some in part because of the arrival of a two large pots of biriyani from Hassan Caterers and the fresh smell had the organisers seeking out where it all came from.  When it all did start parents had used the delay to take the opportunity to catch up with community members and some lost friends. A delay to the start inadvertently brought a community together to discuss children and local affairs both in the UK and abroad. Coaches were thanked for their voluntary contribution, parents for taking up their time to take children to matches and children themselves to continue to be motivated to play. The roll call of honours for various age groups always gives a good discussion but most importantly children start to dream that it will be them next year and so preparation starts in their mind knowing what they have to do.  There’s no top goal scorer or most improved, the starting point for all is not down to ability but always a desire to be better than yesterday and always be better as a person. That’s the model of success. It was only fitting that this year’s keynote speech to mark the 20 years as a club was given to the man who started it all. His dream was to bring football to Asians to now football for all at the FA. His speech was a poignant one. It left parents to reflect and children to start dreaming while us coaches were inspired. The sense of community was highlighted, the importance that children had the right pathway and that their outcomes were achieved. Something that Luton United is tirelessly looking to bring to life, open up the doors and let children achieve their dream. As the plaudits and accolades were handed out to the various age group, the final and most significant award was handed out to the end. An award that in future should have its own sponsor on the bases that it demonstrates the core values that every person should have and that is Clubman of the Year. The merits to achieve this award are down to someone that is selfless, putting others ahead of themselves and going above the minimum. As you may have guessed that is someone always living by those ideas and inspiring others to achieve more. Football in the community can be a lonely affair but what this afternoon showed was make something and the community will happily dream with you to make it happen. So present the dream.