Academy Head of Coaching Michael Hamilton had the privilege of visiting Spain recently as part of the League Football Education coaches’ trip, funded by Erasmus+.
The week-long trip was designed to provide English coaches the opportunity to gain knowledge and a better understanding of the philosophies and training environments which are producing players in Spain, and included visits to see La Liga side Espanyol and European giants FC Barcelona.
“It’s not about going away and trying to implement everything I come across, it’s about stretching and exposing myself to new learning experiences,” said Michael. “Fundamentally the better I can be, the better I can develop the coaches and players here within the academy, even if it’s by 1%.’
“I watched so many different sessions and different types of practices, and it has gave me loads to think about not necessarily things to do differently, but reinforcing some of the things we have implemented here.
“When I sat down and explained to them some of the stuff we do, there is a lot of similar stuff, naturally the culture and difference in set up of youth football mean it’s structured differently.
“But what I will take away and highlight more within the academy is that the style and philosophy take precedent over everything else and there is no swaying from that.
“The way they set up a session, every practice, from the warm up onwards, is linked to the outcome and the outcome linked to the philosophy. The long-term vision is the overriding factor, they don’t change for short term gain – they believe in their process, there are no blurred lines’.
“I was invited to apply at the end of last year, and although it was a lengthy application, I was never not going to apply,” added Michael. “The opportunity to see up close the methods and training techniques used in Spain doesn’t come around too often, but fortunately for me this is the second time in less than a year I’ve been, as I was also part of the Under 18s coaching staff that went to Madrid in the summer.
“We all read and hear about what they do over in Barcelona and Spain, and that was always going to be the highlight, so to be able to sit and talk to Joan Vilas and Paco Seirul·lo about youth development is priceless. These guys worked with the likes of Johan Cryuff and Ronaldo and have been instrumental in the development of Xavi, Messi and every other player to come out of Barcelona.
“The trip as whole was fantastic and I took so much away from all the clubs and people I met and spent time with.”
Michael was joined on the trip by Nick Chadwick (Wigan Athletic Under-18s coach), Steve Guinan (PFA Coach Educator), Jordan McCann (Luton Town Head of Academy Coaching), as well as LFE host Dan Jolley.
We visited the Nou Camp and watched the La Liga game between FC Barcelona and Getafe, with the game finishing 0-0.
Visited the Football Association of Catalonia, which is the largest autonomous community in Spain, consisting of 946 towns with a population 7.45m (London’s population is 7.2m). Regional football in Spain comes second only to the national squad, so to represent your region is an honour.
Here we went through the coaching structure as well as the player development model, with many of players that represent Catalonia, also playing for Espanyol and Barcelona (the two biggest clubs in the region).
The afternoon was a visit to Segunda Division B side UE Cornellà who’s most famous ex-players are current Spain / FC Barcelona full back Jordi Alba and ex Arsenal and Leicester defender Ignasi Miquel.
Met the Catalonia FA Head Coaches and viewed the training sessions of the representative sides.
In the morning we visited ‘La Masia’, the training ground and academy hub of FC Barcelona, where we were hosted by the two Heads of Methodology Joan Vilà and Paco Seirul·lo. Both men have been with the club since the 1970s and have played a major role in every player that has been produced from the academy since, including Andres Iniesta, Xavi and of course Lionel Messi.
In the afternoon we went across to look at the development model of CF Damm, who amongst others have produced recent Spanish internationals Christian Tello and Alex Vidal.
I had the privilege of watching Barcelona under 17s and ‘B’ team train back at ‘La Masia’ in the morning, before heading over to Espanyol to meet Head of Methodology Alex Garcia and Academy Co-coordinator Fran Navarro.
Watched the youth teams of Segunda Division side CF Reus prepare for their clash vs FC Barcelona the next day.