Hope Powell Masterclass Report

Over 50 Attend Hope Powell Masterclass

This is the report of the Masterclass at the LFCA session on February 22nd 2017 by Hope Powell attended by over 50 coaches..

PLAYING FROM THE BACK INTO MIDFIELD OR BEYOND – HOPE POWELL

Hope Powell is without doubt one of the pioneers of women and girls football in this country. She was the Manager/Coach of the England Women's Senior Team for many years and continues to coach in many different outlets, in both the male and female game. Before doing her session at the LFCA she had been coaching young players at the Arsenal Academy earlier in the day.

Before going onto  the training area to coach the players, Hope said that she believed that her job as a coach is to make players better. She is always asking herself the question: "As a coach how can I impart  my knowledge on the player?" She quite simply believes that her job is to make players better.

Hope was working on playing out from the back and basically it was about making a decision of when to and when not to. Arsenal try to play out from the back and when Chelsea play them they try to make it difficult for Arsenal to do this. When Arsenal's keeper has the ball, Chelsea play three up front who spread out and try to force the keeper to kick the ball long, which Chelsea are confident of winning, rather than allowing Arsenal's keeper to make a quick throw in order to start an attack.

To start her session Hope set up a two way practice. There was a goal at each end of a small pitch with a keeper in each. Both teams had two centre halves, two midfield players and a striker. Each team attacked at the same time with no interference from the other side.   The keeper started with the ball in his hands and, on bouncing it, this was the signal for each centre half to get out wide with their bodies in the open position. The keeper threw the ball out to the feet of one of the centre halves and the midfield player on that side immediately got out wide on an angle, also on the half turn. The centre half passes the ball to him, he receives it with the front foot and plays it to the striker who shoots at goal. Meanwhile, the centre half who did not receive the keeper's throw, checked back into the middle to maintain cover and the midfield player on the other side went forward to support the striker  if needed.

A variation was then introduced. The centre half receiving the keeper's throw then played a long pass on the diagonal to the opposite midfield player, switching play. The other midfielder then goes longer to receive a pass through the middle and he passes the ball on to the striker who shoots. An important factor in this combination is that the  two midfield players must not get on the same line. One drops short to receive a pass from the centre half, the other goes long to receive the next pass and then supply the striker. Hope then instructed the players to play either of the combinations and she repeatedly emphasised to the midfielders to beware of getting on the same line. As a guide, and to emphasise the point, Hope put cones down along the centre of the pitch so that the midfield players had a reference and could always ensure that they were on opposite ides of the line to each other in any combination.

Hope then marked out the pitch in thirds with the help of cones. Each team had a keeper, two defenders, two midfield players and one striker. They were restricted to their own third, so in the defensive third it was 2 v 1 (plus keeper), midfield third 2 v 2 and in the attacking third 1 v 2 (plus the opposing keeper).  In addition, in the midfield third there was a "magic man" who played for whichever team had possession.

There was now 'live'  opposition and so the combinations were being worked in an atmosphere of realism. The "magic man" had to go as high as possible in the middle third and the two midfield players mustn't be on the same line. The two centre halves had to go high and wide, forcing the opposing striker back and they had to work his back shoulder. This meant they could escape from his line of vision if the striker did not check his shoulder  to confirm the centre half's whereabouts. Hope wanted the midfield players to make space for themselves by going away and then coming back, looking for a pass. The striker  had to try and get between the centre halves. So the instructions were:  centre halves to go wide,  midfield players to go high and wide, centre forward to get between the centre halves.

Hope then allowed movement of players between the thirds. A player was allowed to go into the next third, but only after the ball had gone in. A midfield player could also drop into the defending third if a defender had gone forward into the midfield third to support an attack but possession had been lost.

The midfield players had to assist a centre half trying to come out with the ball by getting high and wide and taking an opposing midfield player with him by going away and taking an opponent  with him. This left space for the centre half advancing with the ball to move into.

It was important that a midfield player was aware of a defender coming out from the back with the ball, by getting away up the pitch, high and wide, and not blocking the space for the defender to advance into with the ball.  So the opposing midfield player would then either have to leave space for the defender by marking the midfield player or staying in position to engage the defender but allowing the attacking midfielder to get free and therefore be available for a pass.

All the time Hope made valuable technical and tactical points to he players. She said that although a player was now able to go forward into the next third to create an overload, they could  not do so until the ball had gone in there first. The objective always was that the ball must go through the thirds. Hope stressed to the strikers that they must constantly work the back shoulder of the centre half, in order to get away from him  either way or get on the half turn.

After finishing the session, questions were put to Hope in the café area. She said that whenever she coaches players she always has the Principles of Play, for both attack and defence, in her mind.  She said that if everyone is constantly adhering to them you can't go far wrong. She pointed out that she had aimed at breaking the session down into chunks which were all aimed at leading to the full game which they played at the end. She made the observation that English players get bored rather quickly when repetition of work is required. But she knew that players in Germany do practices, such as those which we had seen, over and over again until they get it right and regularly produce it in match play. She had seen some coaches change the practices to something different but when she sees this she always wonders why the coach is changing it when, clearly, the players aren't getting it. She remarked that when she was coaching the England Women's Team  she made them hard to beat because they worked repeatedly on defending.

It had been an excellent session and the attendee coaches showed their appreciation with a warm ovation at the end of he evening.

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Report by Steve Haslam and photos by David Cumberbatch