Pat Holland Session Report

“Early Passing into the Front Men” – Pat Holland

Pat Holland introduced the session by saying that this was work performed when a team gains possession and is looking to break from midfield. He stressed that first of all you must make sure that the basic techniques required are ingrained in the players and that the players also fully understand the movements required. Although much of the work was basic, he would be looking for quality all the time. He mentioned how his old Manager/Coach at West Ham, the late John Lyall, had always emphasised that, when coaching, you have to be the eyes for the kids and set the standard all the time.

To begin with, Pat Holland put the players into pairs and they stood opposite each other to begin with at opposite ends of a 10 yard grid. One player had a ball and he had to pass it on an angle to his partner. Just before passing the ball, the passer touches the ball to one side and the receiver must move to the opposite side and then vice versa when the ball is returned the other way. So the players are constantly making angles for each other and the players begin to see football as being a series of triangles and it cuts out playing the game in constant straight lines, as so many un-coached players do. Pat told the players to think about their footwork and take little steps so that they were nicely balanced and could address the ball correctly.

Pat progressed the work and introduced the reverse pass. Working in the same grids, the player with the ball stood on the corner diagonally opposite his partner. He moved with the ball towards the opposite corner and his partner moved towards the opposite corner on his side a moment or two later. Just as he reached the opposite corner, the player with the ball made a reverse pass to his partner who was timing his run to arrive in his corner at just the same time. Pat encouraged the receiver to attack the space, to promote realism, and the passer had to now drive the pass to reach its intended target. The practice was again continuous with the next pass now coming from the opposite side of the grid.

Pat now brought disguise into the passing. He increased the passing distance by about 5 yards but the set up remained the same as in the previous practice but now the passer, when he got half way along his side of the grid, had to slow down a little to throw a little shimmy, (or feint), as if beating an opponent, and then accelerate again to reach the corner and make another reverse pass. Pat brought in more technical points now, telling the players to “have a picture” before passing the ball so that they are not passing the ball blindly and so look up away from the ball whilst moving. In order to drive their pass correctly he told the passer to come round the ball and step away from it a little in order to be able to drive it further.

Pat now worked with attacks on goal, incorporating this technique work, unopposed towards a full size goal and keeper. Two strikers were positioned about 20 yards from goal and 15 yards apart. 2 midfield players were in support of them about 10 – 15 yards away The rest of the players were in two lines about 10 yards from the midfield players. The ball was passed by the first player in one of the lines to the midfield player ahead of him. He had to receive the pass on an angle, (as per first practice), and the striker diagonally opposite him had to pull away from the cone, (i.e. opponent’s shoulder), and make a run across his back for a driven pass from the midfield player. He had to time his run to stay onside and get his body shape right, with shoulders pointing across the pitch. In order to underline the importance of body shape and adjustment, Pat took a player on his own with another player acting as an opponent and walked him through the movement without a ball, in order to explain the footwork and body adjustment required. Next Pat worked on the striker making his run across the FRONT of the defender, after drawing him away from his position with his initial movement. In the practice there was constant rotation, with the players changing roles after each attack on goal. So the players in the lines came forward and everyone received coaching in both midfield and striking positions. All passes were made diagonally as in the initial practices.

The next variation was the reverse pass, so now the midfield player on the ball moved with the ball diagonally towards the opposite striker, but half way across made a reverse pass into other striker who was breaking away from his marker, having pulled away as the midfield player was breaking forward with the ball. He made his run across the back of the defender, but as the players became more and more familiar and confident with the work, he varied his runs to cut across the front of the defender. Pat encouraged the midfield players to use the outside of their foot to play the striker in, but it was a little alarming to see that not many players were very confident or proficient at using this very important part of the foot for passing the ball.

Due to time constraints, Pat did not have time to do the final part of his work, which he had planned, and he explained this orally in the building after we had returned from the training pitch. This was progressing into a small-sided game. The pitch is split into 2 equal size zones. In one half you have 2 defenders marking 2 forwards and a similar arrangement in the other half. There is a keeper in each goal. The keeper serves to one one of his defenders and the opposing forwards can’t challenge. The ball is passed into one of the forwards in the other half as was worked on in the finishing practices explained and the defenders marking them are ‘live’. The coaching which has been explained is now put to the test and the forwards must try to score in the manner which i have explained. When the opposite end keeper has the ball then he must distribute to one of his defenders, without pressure, and they pass into one of their forwards who are trying to reproduce the work in ‘live’ conditions. It is important to understand that the players must stay in their prescribed zones.

It had been an excellent session and, of course, the kind of work which Pat Holland, in all his years as a player at West Ham, under Ron Greenwood and John Lyall, had been steeped in. For the members present, it was invaluable coaching education at whatever level they work at.

Report by Steve Haslam

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