Coaching Venture in Europe (Part 2).

 

Coaching Venture in Europe (Part 2).

I had contacted officials at SV Werder Bremen prior to leaving New Zealand but since then I had no contact with them.   On my return to Holland from Italy I tried on several occasions to get in touch with their officials, but to no avail.   Tiredness from living out of a suitcase was starting to seep in, and I was prepared to cancel the German leg of my tour and push on to England, where language difficulties would not be a problem for me.   It was early morning, as I sat in Bertus’ car, pondering my next move, when he passed me the mobile phone and urged me to try again to get through to Werder Bremen.   Fortunately, at this final attempt, a commanding voice in English, laced with a thick German accent rang out from the other end of the line, “we are expecting you.”   This club official informed me that there was a home game that very evening and urged me to get to Bremen as soon as possible.    He further informed me that he would arrange a ‘budget bed and breakfast’ hotel, near to the stadium, for me to stay.   In double quick time I was on a train leaving Deventer, crossing the Dutch/German border, and on my way through Northern Germany to the city of Bremen.

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I mentioned that I knew Wynton personally, which was enough to get me a free taxi ride.

On arriving at the railway station in Bremen, once again bereft of the local currency, I encountered a friendly taxi driver who agreed to take me to the stadium.   The fact that I was from New Zealand and that I knew ‘Kiwi Rufer’ personally was enough for him to waive the fare, and I arrived at my destination, once again free of charge.

The stadium at Werder Bremen stood in stark contrast to the homely stadiums of Zwolle and Treviso, with its towering floodlights overseeing a magnificent, mainly seated, auditorium. In the administration offices I was introduced to the Director of Youth Development and other coaches and officials.     I could hardly believe my good fortune when I was informed that they could not find a place for me at a local hotel, but that they had arranged a self-contained unit within the confines of grandstand.

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The stadium at Werder Bremen stood in stark contrast to the homely grounds at Zwolle and Treviso.

One of the young professional players showed me to my room, which overlooked the whole of the playing arena.  As kick off time for the evening fixture came near, I took up a superb vantage point, just outside my room, to watch the whole panorama of players warming up as the crowd filled up the stadium.   If this wasn’t enough, ten minutes prior to kick off the same young man returned, this time with a ticket to join the dignitaries in the main Grandstand, thus entitling me to food, drinks and the best seat in the house to watch the game.   Once again I was treated to an end to end top flight game, in front of a noisy partisan crowd, with Werder Bremen and Stuttgart fighting out a high scoring contest in which Werder Bremen came out on top,

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The view from my room of players warming up prior to the Werder v Stuttgart game.

The next day I was provided with a key for a side entrance door, thus allowing me to enter and leave the stadium whenever I pleased.   The hospitality of the Germans was endless as they also gave me a pass to have my evening meals at the stadium restaurant.   Breakfasts were provided for me at a café within the Grandstand, where the young professionals were fed, and I was then left to my own devises.   Werder Bremen cast their scouting network worldwide, and I became friendly with two Aussie youngsters and a young Canadian Goalkeeper, who spent a lot of time with me complaining that he wasn’t getting enough game time, he wished that he had signed for Celtic who had also offered him terms.   I got the impression that these boys were a bit homesick and enjoyed having an English speaker to hang out with, albeit that I was old enough to be their father.   They even asked me to join them on their weekly night out in the city but I politely declined, not wanting to get offside with my German hosts.   Interestingly, one of the talent scouts told me that the club sent someone to the Australian National Youth Tournament with the specific objective of signing the top goal scorer.

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I began my daily routine of filming training sessions.

As in Holland and Italy, I began my daily routine of filming training sessions; the first team squad in the mornings, the part-timers and youth team in the afternoons and the juniors in the evenings.   The facilities to train footballers were magnificent with numerous pitches directly adjacent to the stadium stretching into the distance.   The size of the squads surprised me with at least thirty players plus keepers in the first team, over thirty players in the afternoon sessions and countless juniors in the late afternoons and evenings.

I thoroughly enjoyed filming the first team practices admiring the excellent technical ability and physicality that you expect to see with German players.   They didn’t wait for the coach to arrive to start training, they organised themselves into groups, and began playing keep-ball, 1 and 2 touch, for up to half an hour, before the coaches took over and got into the ‘meat’ of the session.   There were several foreign players in the first team squad including Julio Caesar from Juventus fame.   As I understood it, he was out of contract in Italy, and Werder Bremen had signed him on a ‘pay when you play basis,’ therefore, only paying him if he played in the first team.

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I tried to communicate with Julio Caesar but all I got was a polite nod.

After about a week of idyllic living; filming training sessions and watching games, I sheepishly showed up at the administration offices and asked them if they realised that I was still staying with them.   I think my timing was right as the official said that they would need my accommodation for some upcoming event.

It was with overwhelming feelings of gratitude to the Werder Bremen Football club when I left and made my way back to Holland.   Their hospitality was more than I could have hoped for, and the only thing that they asked in return was to give them some advice about the FIFA World Cup Under 17 Tournament, which was to be played in Auckland later in the year.

For the last time, I returned back to Deventer in Holland where my friends, Gerrie and Bertus once again welcomed me back to their home.   It was a sad occasion when I said my goodbye’s and boarded the train to Calais, where I would catch the connection taking me through the Channel Tunnel and on to London.

After a further few days of catch-up with my sister’s, Anne in London and Linda in Cheshire, I returned to my birthplace; Silsden in Yorkshire, to stay with my sister-in-law, Jenifer.   This gave me easy access to travel to Leeds United each day in order to record their training sessions.

 

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The Leeds United Academy situated at Thorp Arch.

The Leeds United Academy was situated at Thorp Arch; a country venue well away from the main Stadium at Elland Rd.   My initial contact to visit Leeds United was made through Dave Richardson; Director of Youth at the Barclays Premier League.   Dave visited the Leeds United Academy whilst I was filming, and although I only had a brief conversation with him he came across as a charming helpful gentleman.

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I met up again with Danny Hay at Leeds United.

As I made my way to the Academy lunch room on my first day of recording I heard a cry of, “Maurice, what are you doing here?” only to be confronted by the sizable frame of fellow Kiwi Danny Hay.   I had tried to contact Danny, through his family prior to leaving New Zealand, but the message apparently never got through as he was genuinely surprised to see.   I had watched him play as a school boy at Kelston Boys College, and I had put him through his Junior Coaching Badge, at the time that Jim Dale was deputy Principle.   The last I had seen Danny was when we were both studying at Auckland University, prior to him leaving to play in Perth; from there he moved on to Europe.   Danny escorted me to the lunch room where we were joined by, ex Scottish International, and Leeds United great; Eddie Grey.   I had played against Eddie almost forty years previously, when I was a Youth player at Huddersfield Town (see Memories; Huddersfield Town on this website).   He had gone on to achieve much greater things than me, and I appreciated him coming to have a lengthy chat over lunch.   At that time Eddie was the first team Coach, under Manager David O’Leary, but I think that at some stage that Eddie took on the mantle of Manager himself.

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I had a chat over lunch with Leeds United and Scotland ‘great,’ Eddie Grey.

Most of the time I spent at Leeds United was recording the Youth team players, as the first team had a midweek fixture, and were in light training.   Nigel Martin was the first team keeper and I watched him, in tandem with a youthful Paul Robinson, working out together with one of the goalkeeper coaches.   I wanted to get some close in footage of two top class keepers at work so I started to fetch and retrieve the balls when they went behind the goal.   After a while I asked Nigel if I could film the session, he replied, “you’ll have to negotiate with my agent,” but then laughingly told me to go ahead.

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Leeds and England keeper, Nigel Martin, kindly let me film his session.

As I was leaving Thorp Arch for the last time a Taxi pulled up and out stepped the Newcastle United and England striker, Alan Shearer.   I could never work out what he was doing at Leeds United!!!

After several weeks of living out of a suitcase in Europe, I finally returned home to New Zealand to piece together my countless tapes of footage, from the training sessions.   After several attempts at trying to edit the tapes myself, I found a lady who specialised in this kind of work.   She operated from a small studio in the basement of her home, situated somewhere on the North Shore of Auckland.   Radio sport commentator Andrew Dewhurst agreed to dialogue with me by asking questions about the footage as I related details back to him.   Our editor meanwhile ‘clipped’ and pieced together the footage until little by little we were able to produce a full tape.   Fortunately, Andrew was a ‘football man’ and could ask pertinent questions, nonetheless, we spent three stressful days of ‘ad lib’ commentary before getting an acceptable conclusion.

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Andrew Dewhurst and I spent three stressful days putting together the footage. 

The completed video tape ran for more than 2 hours and Lotto NZ marketed the tape to many of the football clubs with whom they dealt.   It was unfortunate, in some respects, that I accepted a contract from the Cook Islands FA at this time and was, therefore, unable to help with its marketing and distribution.   However, the video tape and later its DVD edition found its way into other agencies and was renamed “Soccer Training Sessions from Around the World.”   I was informed at some stage that it had been the top selling Soccer Instructional video in the USA for several months.   Needless to say I never received any royalties from its sale, Lotto NZ’s return was also minimal, however, I gained much satisfaction from the positive feedback that I received from respected people within football circles.    The DVD is still being marketed by several agencies on the Internet…..