Jeff Tipping is the Palm Beach Soccer Academy (Fla.) Technical Director and former NSCAA Director of Education and Coaching Development. Tipping, who is a native of Liverpool, wrote the following assessment of a Barclay’s U-18 Premier game this fall between Liverpool FC and Southhampton at the Liverpool Training Ground. The report was made as a UEFA Assessor for the Irish FA.

The Game

This game, between two clubs with a reputation for player development, provided a soccer spectacle which left no doubt that great players are forged in the crucible of fiercely contested competition against top level opposition.
Gareth Bale, a graduate of the Southampton Academy and now the most expensive soccer player in the world and Liverpool Academy’s Stephen Gerrard, captain of England and Liverpool are the products of games and occasions like this.
Played at relentless speed, and with splendid demonstrations of guile, dribbling trickery, sublime passing and defensive discipline, observers were left with no doubt as to the significant developmental value of playing at this level, week in and week out.

The Players

The game featured nine youth National team players and included eight players from non – English countries. The players, a combination of U17 and U18 “Scholars”, are on the very verge of signing pro contracts and the under 18′s will find out their professional playing fate in the next six months.
Many of the players who have been with both clubs since they were seven (7) or eight (8) will find out if the club considers them good enough to keep as professional players.
If not they shall be released to join another club and some may find themselves out of football completely. Fortunately, due to recent changes in education programming, through the Scholars program, they have a far superior educational background to fall back on than they did just two decades ago.

The Barclays U18 Premier League.

·Interestingly enough, at this point the only English Premier Academy League play is at the U18 level. Younger teams play in tournaments and many of the Liverpool staff were away at an Academy Tournament being played, for the younger age levels, at Warwick University.
These tournaments are hosted around the country and are an, understandable, attempt to keep the focus on player development rather than winning trophies.
Andy Roxburgh, when National Team and Director of Coaching for Scotland in the 1990′s, often recommended the Tournament approach to the developmental directors of Scottish clubs as he believed league play focused too much emphasis on safety, getting a result and taking no chances.
Risk taking, in soccer, is the key to personal growth and

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