Martin Allen Session Report

More than 50 coaches were there to see Barnet Manager Martin Allen put on an outstanding hour long coaching session for the London Football Coaches Association on Monday the 29th of September at the Score Centre Leyton E10.

This was followed by a further hour of question and answer and coaching theory by Martin which was thoroughly appreciated by an enthusiastic audience.


Martin Allen emphasised from the start just how important it is to get the players, of all ages and abilities, in the right frame of mind at the start of the session.

He had never met the Leyton Orient youth players before who he was working with, he had no idea of their standard and had no prior knowledge of the size and shape of the training area. However, he was determined from the start that the young players would enjoy the session, benefitting from both an enjoyment point of view and as a learning experience.

He did a quick warm up, getting the boys to perform movement activities requiring energy and mental alertness. He was quick to praise their efforts from the very start, pointing out that he had already given them complements, allowed them to have some fun and generated their enthusiasm.

Getting on to the theme of the session, he took 7 of the players and arranged them into shape where he had three across a midfield line, one forward in a central striker position and three in a back supporting group. The ball had to be passed between them, crisply and sharply to feet, with a maximum of two touches. After the ball had travelled in a backwards or sideways direction, the next pass had to be forwards, releasing a wide player to run onto and put an early, accurate low cross into the in-running striker. This was performed down both sides of the playing area. It is salient to point out that Martin had only a corner section of the training area to work in and not the full playing width. But he adapted his work so that he worked in a much smaller area than anticipated but still succeeded in enabling the players to relate the work to the full pitch and playing positions that they would encounter in normal match play.

It is important to mention here that Martin stressed how important it is for the coach to be constantly reviewing with himself how the session is running. The coach must be honest with himself and if the message is not really getting across to the players then he must call a time-out, give the players a drink break and, if necessay, re-shape the practice to make it work. He mentioned that Terry Venables had had a great influence on him as a coach, and the former England manager often changed his practice midway through a session if he did not think that it was working. He did it by giving the players a break and altering the playing area,size or whatever it was that needed to be changed.

Martin Allen then progressed the practice by introducing two additional midfield players. He stressed that the vital part of the work was to pass with penetration to open up the opposition and get into the final third and score. With this addition of two more midfield players he introduced rotation of positions, with special emphasis on coaching overlapping and forward runs. It was the same basic set up as before, but he was looking for an overlap when the ball was at the feet of a wide player. He wanted positive runs into the goal area by the striker and other attacks to finish off the moves with a realistic and good finish.

The climax to the session, in the time that was available, was a shadow game of two teams of nine. The arrangement of the 2 teams was a keeper, back 4, midfield 3 and a striker. The play started with the ball coming out from the back. As in the previous exercise when the ball went wide he wanted an overlap, followed by a good quality cross or pull back and a good finish. To develop realism he wanted the boys to celebrate enthusiastically when they scored, with the resting players on the side even running on to join in the celebrations as if they were substitutes on match day!

Martin pointed out that the important structure of the teams was a no. 9 high up the pitch, a no. 10 in support coming back into the centre circle, 2 wide midfield players and high full backs. The other players fitted around these players to produce the shadow play.

There was no doubt that the enthusiasm and commitment that Martin Allen displayed rubbed off on the young players and it was as enjoyable for them to participate in as it was for the attendee coaches to watch.

Report by.  Steve Haslam

(Members comments should be sent to

“The approach to the session made me think about my own approach. Like Martin I’ve re-invented myself as a coach over the years, and the session was a sharp reminder that I need to keep doing that. I realised from the session that the positive body language and positive manner I used to have has dulled slightly in the past couple of years, I know the reasons for it but I’ve not paid it enough attention.

From the session with the Leyton Orient boys, I now realise I need to perk up and start inspiring my players again, giving them the enthusiasm that Martin inspired in the Leyton Orient players. I’ve already thought of a couple of ideas on how to do that with my next session.

Thanks again and best of luck to Martin with Barnet, both for this season and beyond.

Kind regards,

Frank Lopez.”