Mixed results but universal enjoyment and learning was the consensus as Chesterfield, Middlesbrough and Tranmere returned from the Netherlands at the weekend after a two week Pre-Season Tour arranged by LFE.
On the pitch the three Football League clubs all encountered continental opposition on at least three occasions as they pitted their wits against the likes of AFC Ajax, Feyenoord, Vitesse Arnhem, FC Twente and VFL Osnabruck.
A final day mini tournament between the trio, which Middlesbrough emerged victorious from, brought the curtain down on the two weeks but it was the training ground work and off the pitch activities that provided additional benefits to those on tour.
“From our perspective it was a chance to have ownership of the players and work with them exclusively for a couple of weeks,” said Tranmere’s Academy boss Shaun Garnett.
“It’s very rare to be able to do that with them as a group because the first-team will sometimes call players over to work with them so training plans sometimes have to be amended as we go and it’s impossible to work on everything you want to with them – this trip has enabled that to happen and look at different things in games that we wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to do.”
While working with the players in an intense environment was of undoubted benefit so to was a chance to catch up with Dutch legend Arnold Muhren at the Amsterdam Arena.
“Dedication and commitment are key if you want to become a top class player,” the former Ajax, Manchester United and Holland star told the young English players. “You have to be prepared to sacrifice and work at your game continuously.”
Muhren’s words resonated in particular with Middlesbrough contingent who had beaten Ajax in a friendly just days earlier.
“We played so well against Ajax so the players have in many ways set their own benchmark,” said Under-18s coach Paul Jenkins. “They’ve got to aim to reach that level on a consistent basis and in many ways what we’ve said to them privately was then reiterated by Arnold Muhren.”
“This trip has been of enormous value to the club and our players the big challenge now is to see our players put their learning into action once the season starts.”