Earlier this month the under 15 and under 14 (with six under 13s) travelled to Dusseldorf to take part in the International Cup - and came back with a trophy.
Head of coaching, Matt Whitehouse, talks through the academy's trip to Germany and the success the two sides achieved:
"In total 34 players and four staff members went from Birmingham Airport on Friday, May 13 to Dusseldorf. Myself, under 15s lead coach Paul Evans, under 14s lead coach Jordan Butler and physio Nathan Allinson were all looking forward to what was to be a fantastic weekend.
Over the weekend the under 14s kept a clean sheet in seven of their nine games, with the under 15s not conceding their first goal until the final. To say it was an immense defensive performance from the teams is an understatement. The strength, composure and intelligence of the players was excellent.
The teams played the style of football which the academy seeks to play: possession based, well organised and having the ability to score goals in different ways. Both teams scored some fantastic goals across the weekend, with many of the spectators and opposition coaches praising how well our teams played.
The tournament was intense, with 28-minute matches meaning high-tempo football a lot of the time, and the lads dealt with it very well throughout. With four or five games across the day it was important the players stayed fresh, hydrated and ate well throughout the day. It shows the level of fitness and mental strength of the players that they were able to play eight games across two days and perform to the level they did.
Under 15s' Great Achievement
It was an easier day for the first group games but the players played their opponents off the pitch with some scintillating football; 6-0, 6-0 and 8-0 highlights the domination and quality the lads showed. A special mention should go to Zak Walker and Luke Rawson who on the first day scored seven goals between them and assisted another six.
It got harder on the Sunday. I witnessed a fantastic display of character and quality from the lads through the day. Although the first day was quite easy the players knew it would be tougher on the next day, and throughout the day the players gave their absolute all.
The lads knew they needed to win their first game versus JFV Viktoria Fulda in order to guarantee their qualification from the group, and they worked tirelessly to get the goal and win.
The goal to win the game 1-0 came two minutes from the end thanks to a fabulous in-swinging corner from Riley Noble who found Josh Burns at the back post, who was ruthless in putting away the goal. The players knew how important that goal was and the celebrations highlighted that.
In the second game of the day the team once again dominated, playing with quality and confidence in their play. TSV Kronshagen Weis were a strong opponent but the team looked extremely focused and solid. Defensively the team were superb and 'keeper Teddy Marris’s goal was never in trouble. Liam Bell got the goal to win this one 1-0 again, with great set-up play from the tricky and skilful Archie Wood on the wing. This meant the team qualified from the group as winners.
In the quarter-final the team met the impressive Newport County, regarded as one of the favourites to win the tournament. Up to this point they had looked a very good side, but the 1-0 win for Chesterfield didn’t do justice to the domination which the team had in the game.
Rawson lobbed the goalkeeper with a lovely weighted finish after a good killer pass from Riley Davoile. There could and should have been more. But there was no way Newport were going to get a chance to score against this formidable defence.
Into the semi-finals the team went, facing a very good SG Wattenscheid supported by the majority of the viewing public. The atmosphere was very tense and certainly against Chesterfield.
In a close contest neither side could threaten the goal effectively and it went to penalties. At 3-3 and with the final penalty to win the game up stepped Noble. His shot was saved but the power of the shot was so great that it shot into the air, landed, spun backwards and ended up in the goal. That was the winner and Chesterfield were in the final.
The final against SV Gonsenheim was one of those great finals full of drama. Longer than the previous games this game was 40 mins long, split into two 20 minute halves. It was a tough battle for the team, 0-0 at half time after a great one-on-one save from Marris in goal. It was cagey and very tight.
In the second half Chesterfield were looking more threatening and likely to score, yet with eight minutes left on the clock Marris received a back pass and passed it straight to their forward who couldn’t believe his luck and put the ball in the goal. It was cruel for Marris who had been fantastic all weekend and hadn’t conceded at all up to this point. It now it looked like his mistake could result in defeat for the team.
With five minutes left Regan Watkinson came on to the pitch and his first touch was to deliver a perfect pin-point free kick to the back post for Burns once again to head home and equalise.
Confidence returned to the team and with the game looking like it was going to penalties Wood was released down the wing, cut inside on his left foot and found the combative and dynamic Tom Kerry. Kerry then beat two defenders but his shot was blocked, however it fell to Tom Ward who put it away with a fantastic half volley from the edge of the area to win the game and tournament.
The ref blew his whistle as soon as the opposition kicked-off. Celebrations ensued and it was a fantastic way to win.
Lead coach Evans was delighted with the success: “These players have worked extremely hard all year long, and all that hard work has paid off this weekend with these fantastic performances and success.”
It was a much deserved win for this team who had been excellent all weekend and had impressed everyone with the quality of their football, the intensity and excellence in their defending and their overall attitude and character. I am so proud of the lads.
Under 15s Review
In terms of the future, are there are stars in the making in this group? Perhaps so, Wood received the ‘Best Player’ award from the organisers, and he was without doubt brilliant throughout. To be honest there were many excellent performers across the weekend, it really was a real team performance, where the whole group stepped up.
Looking at this group I see a lot of potential within it and believe that a number of these lads can become fantastic footballers. It is up to them and how hard they want to work but also ourselves as an academy and as staff to create the environment, to enhance their game and to motivate and inspire these lads to succeed. I think a weekend like this one goes a long way to help that.
Under 15s squad: GK Teddy Marris, Riley Noble, Alex Phillipson, Josh Burns, Tom Kerry, Tom Ward, Joe Lumley, Riley Davoile, Archie Wood, Luke Rawson, Cavan McDonald, Liam Bell, Albie White, Brandon Howard, Liam Jones, Regan Watkinson, Zak Walker
Under 14s Success
After a mixed Saturday of results and performances the under 14s knew that they had four games on the Sunday to win the tournament. It was to prove a defensive masterclass by the team, not conceding a goal all day and winning all their games on their road to success.
It started with a game against FC Enemn, a tough side yet one which the under 14s dealt with excellently. Special mention to the defence of Marcus Calderone - who debuted for the youth team at the age of just 13 this season! - Connor Emery and Ed Dawson along with Dan Brown in goal, these players were solid as a rock for the side all day. Goals from the academy’s top goal scorer of the season Josh Turner opened the scoring and Kian Tansley, the under 13s all-action midfielder, sealed the win.
Into the quarter-finals and a much closer and tighter affair. SV Elvesrberg were the opponents, a very strong and physical side, yet they couldn’t create any real chances due to the strength of Chesterfield’s defence. Chances were limited for both sides until Turner was played through with a lovely through ball from Robbie Bestwick who finished excellently to take the team to the semi-finals.
FC Minsk were the opponents in the semi-final and once again the team progressed with a 1-0 win. This time a lovely goal from Bestwick from the edge of the area to take the side through to the final.
The lads as a whole were working so hard for the team and each other, it was a delight to watch them all day. As lead coach Butler reported: “I thought they didn’t play to their best on the Saturday to be honest, this is a very good group of players and we expect a high level at all times, but on Sunday they really stepped up and every player worked fantastically to reach the final and win it. They deserve to be pleased with themselves.”
In the final the team faced Bohemians, a very good side from Ireland and this was another tight affair. Bohemians created some good chances and Brown was in majestic form to keep another clean sheet for the day. Yet with five minutes to go Brandon Bradbury got on the end of a pin-point Edwin Rossett-Ballard cross to head home the winner and crown the Chesterfield under 14s as tournament champions. A fantastic end to a fantastic day of football.
A special mention to the six under 13s who played throughout the weekend. For the team to perform so well with six under 13s is testament to the players' application and ability, we trusted in the talent of the players who stepped in to the group and we couldn’t be prouder of what they all achieved this weekend.
U14s squad: GK Dan Brown, Edwin Rosset-Ballard, Connor McMillan, Marcus Calderone, Robbie Bestwick, Brandon Bradbury, Matthew Feurtado, Joshua Turner, Connah Emery, Robbie Maycock, Tom Wood, Kian Tansley, Ted Stevenson, Finlay Smith, Olly Papworth, Ant Baker, Ed Dawson
Overall the players from both teams were first class, both on and off the pitch all weekend and it was a weekend which all will remember and look back on fondly.
They set a great example to the rest of the academy and showed that they can succeed playing great football while being respectful people along the way.
Compliments about the behaviour of the lads around the hotel and at the tournament venue were expressed to the staff throughout the weekend.