Neil Banfield

Turning the Game Forwards – Report by Steve Haslam


Immediately, the theme of turning was introduced in the warm up.

The players were put in pairs, with a ball for each pair. It was to start with a pass and move exercise. Then the player in possession had to make a little dribble before passing. Player receiving pass must make a change of pace by accelerating.

Now the player receiving ball, after turning, must run either left or right with ball. His partner runs to the opposite side, so if the receiver runs to the right then he must run to the left and vice versa.

Neil emphasised to receiver that he must get on half turn and he wanted to see change of pace.

Neil frequently moved away from the group of players to make important points to the attendee coaches. He said that he did not like players who just lay the ball back all the time because that helps the opposition to immediately squeeze up and reduce the space. He also pointed out that the most important space in football is between the midfield and the back players. This is where he wants his creative players to get , so that they can get a turn in there and really hurt the opposition.

Neil encouraged the players to perform different types of turns because if you turn the same way all the time you will become predictable.
The players were now put into 3s. One became a defender and the receiver had to get a turn on him. He then must run to one side or the other, as before, and his partner must run to the other side. Then the player who did the turn makes a pass and Neil didn’t want a square pass but a penetrative forward pass.

Neil went into a the subtleties which were involved. He discussed how the ball could be made to “talk” to the attacker. So if it was played in hard then the receiver could bounce it off first time, but a soft pass told him that he could turn becauser the space was there. If the defender closed down on the foot receiving the ball then the receiver could turn back into the space which he had just left. Neil said that the reciver, besides scanning the area around him before receiving the ball to judge the space available, he should also ‘feel the marker’ so that he would know where he is.


So now the work progressed into an attack v defence situation.
The area on the pitch was coned off from the edge of the penalty areas down to the half way line so it was performed in central areas.

To begin with there was a keeper, back 3 against a front 4. The midfield 3 wore different coloured bibs to either the back 3 or attackers and the practice was started by 2 servers in the centre circle. The servers passed into a front player who had to get a turn on a defender and then the other attackers had to make runs in an attempt to get free and a strike on goal. If the defence win the ball thern they must immediately launch counter attacks and the midfield 3 in the previous attack now become forwards in an attempt to get turns against the previous 2 servers who are now defenders.

So it was a 2 way exercise with excellent tempo and movement.
Neil stressed that it was not position specific, the important thing was that they are turning.

Neil juggled the numbers in the various departments, between the forwards, midfield and defenders to create situations depending on what tactical formation might be used in match play. For example, he went 4v. 4 in defence against attack as the forwards got more confident because to begin with they had the overload to help give them success in the early stages. He then went 4 midfield v 3 defensive midfield and 2 strikers v 2 defenders.Whatever formation was applied, the fundamental element was to turn and then have runners to select from.

Neil stressed to the coaches that they must get it across to their players that making a mistake doesn’t matter, the mistake is not trying it. He said that he believed that in the forthcoming World Cup the best teams will have players who can turn the game forward.

At the end of the session, chairman John Cartwright remarked that even during the relatively short time that the boys had done the session it was noticeable that by the end they had become more positive about turning than they had been at the beginning.

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