Focus Sessions with Ross Allen
The 2019/20 season introduced the Focus Session programme as an optional extra to players within the Academy.
With recently returned Ross Allen at the helm, and assistance from Guernsey FA Academy coach Tony Vance, the Focus Session programme was designed to give players the chance to 'focus' on various aspects of their game, within a smaller group environment, thus resulting in more player exposure time with the coach.
"The Focus Sessions were designed to help players concentrate on improving their technique. Sometimes in a larger group, with limited time, we can only work with the players as a whole, trying to improve players understanding of the game, in game related scenarios.
The benefit of the Focus Sessions is that, by only having 5 or 6 players at a time, we can really analyse and look at ways of improving individual techniques, through demonstration and repetition."
Each week has a theme, from basics such as passing and receiving, or dribbling, to more difficult techniques such as volleys or long range aerial passing. Other key areas centre around correct body position, shielding the ball, and the encouraged use of your non-dominant foot. Something that Ross is keen to focus on.
"In my opinion, it is essential that players get comfortable using their 'weaker', or non-dominant foot. If players rely to heavily on one foot then they will become predictable, and will eventually get found out when they get older and reach senior football. Unless you're Lionel Messi, you need to be able to play from both sides. Even then, Messi has an excellent right foot. His left is just so good that he can get away with it.
When I was young, and as a striker myself, I did the math. How many chances are going to fall on my right foot, and how many on my left foot? The law of averages says 50-50. From that point on, I knew I could never reach my full potential without dedicating time to both sides. That's why everything we do in our sessions will be repeated the same number of times on the opposite foot."
And Allen says he's already starting to notice a change...
"I have been extremely impressed by the improvements shown in our players over the course of this first season. Not only are they now trusting their other foot more, it has allowed them to play the game in a much more expansive way than they previously would have. Whether its a defender playing the ball around the back, or a striker taking that quick opportunity on his left, rather than trying to shift it onto his stronger right side."
The GFA is fortunate to also have young goalkeeper Jordan Kelly amidst their ranks. Ross says Jordan's work with the goalkeeper's, enables his own players to get even more from the sessions.
"These focus sessions are not designed solely for strikers, as people may expect with me taking them. We work on all sorts of in game examples, looking at how to move the ball around the pitch. I focus as much on defending and midfield play, as I do on forward play. It's important for players to have an all round understanding of the game and different positions from a young age. They may think they're a striker now, but it may turn out that down the line, they become a full back. Some of these deeper roles are much more attractive than they used to be, owing a debt to players like Trent Alexander-Arnold.
But when we do invariably make use of a goal, it is incredibly helpful to have Jordan and his group of goalkeepers there for collaboration. It is essential that players get practice shooting against a keeper, so that this is a normal problem that they then face when coming into a game. And likewise for the goalkeepers."
Despite the disruptions to the 2019/20 season, Allen believes that the Focus Sessions concept is here to stay. And see's it helping to create more players who can achieve great things for Guernsey Football and beyond.
"It is my belief that if players want it enough, and work hard enough, then they can go places with their football. Take Alex Scott for an example. Alex is an exceptional talent for sure. But he works hard on his game, is extremely adept off both feet, and just loves the game. He wants to keep improving and isn't happy to just stay in his comfort zone."
Ross also dedicates his successes to his hard work and commitment to the game.
"I'm so grateful to have had an unbelievable career as a part of Guernsey representative sides, and Guernsey FC. As well as lucky enough to play National League Football in New Zealand, and win the Oceania Champions League, leading to an appearance at the Club World Cup. None of that would have been possible if I hadn't continued to practice and had a desire to get better.
Plenty of players within our Acadmey have the potential to follow in the footsteps of Alex or myself, but they have to put in the work to hone their craft and become technically good players. I was lucky enough to have my Dad to teach me when I was growing up. Hopefully I can now pass along some of my knowledge to those that want it."
The Focus Sessions run weekly alongside, and as part of the regular Academy schedule.