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Talent ID & Development of the Individual Player – James Ward, Fleetwood Town

On Saturday May 16th we hosted the second webinar in our series – Talent ID & Development of the Individual Player. James Ward, Fleetwood Town’s International Partnership was our guest. You can listen to the full webinar here .

A few weeks ago, James answered some questions below that provides some valuable advice for young players pursuing professional playing opportunities.

1) What is the practical tips and tactics that you would give to young players that are aspiring to play professional football in Europe (within the following areas)?

Technical Development – I am a huge believer in players developing awareness, touch direction and ball protection. You look at some of the greats in the English game over the past 15 years, Paul Scholes, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard … they where always one step ahead of play, (continues checking shoulders through the game) they knew where and when to take there 1st touch, (away from pressure) and in tight areas they used there body (as slight players) superbly well. Look at how they used there arms and backside to shield and spin away from pressure…. the master’s of all for me where Xavi and Iniesta. They would always asses the scenario before receiving the ball and at times would not even need to touch it to find a path out of pressure. A must for me is to get the 3 key areas above into all sessions for youth / adult players.

Tactical Development – Game understanding and decision making separates the good from the great. The best players are not always those who are technically and physically dominant but those who can solve problems consistently and read the game through all phases. I always use the French Midfielder Claude Makalele as an example. He new his role (break up play and give it to someone who could effect attacking play) superbly and executed it with consistency throughout his career. He was technically limited to those around him however made his skill set the best in the world for that DCM position. Know your strength early and make it a super strength.

Physical Development – The modern day game is becoming quicker, faster, stronger and more explosive… players regardless of stature and body shape must keep up with modern day methods as the game will not slow down. Core strength and explosive power are key for the modern day player

Psychological Development – Player mind set and attitude is crucial to succeed. Again these key traits separate the good from the great. Every player will make a mistake in every session in every game! the great players recover and learn quickly and don’t dwell on the mistake. Empathy and reflection on mistakes is vital for any youth player. Preparing the mind for situations is also crucial… how will you react in the 85th minute and your team is 1-0 down!! Training sessions / SSG need to have these scenarios in them to see how players react to the pressure and to mimic game days.

2) What other general advice would you like to include?

Enjoy, work hard, make friends and ask questions.. It is the most wonderful game in the world and can teach so many life skills. To develop a better player, we must first educate and develop the person. Moral fiber, respect and discipline are vital to future success. Some of my best friends have come from playing football and come from all over the globe.

3) As FIFA rulings prevent international players from signing with professional clubs in Europe until 16 (if they have an EEC passport) or 18 if they don’t what specific advice would you provide to this group of players.

Find a club, coach, group of players that challenge you every day, every session. Study the game and ask questions… you need to be better than what EU clubs already have in there academy systems. Being as good as them is not enough! Get to oversea camps and tournaments.. sample what it is like playing against different cultures, systems and styles of play. Never think your the finished article.. every day is a school day.. a day to get better and push forwards. You must be utterly committed and dedicated and be prepared to make big sacrifices.


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