JOURNALISTS VIEW: BRISTOL ROVERS

This was another idea of mine, before each home fixture the media team interview the local journalist of the opposition, we get their view on the teams form and their three key players, this is more interesting than the standard biographies and gives an up-to-date view of the opposition.

Craig Draycott spoke to James McNamara from the Bristol Post who outlined his expectations for the season, while naming his choice of three players Spireties fans need to watch out for.

Matty Taylor

James’ first choice was an obvious one, the club’s top scorer for the past two seasons, Matty Taylor has been an ever-present in the side since Darrell Clarke took over: “Taylor has scored 14 goals so far this season and is the sides leading scorer once again, he has been very consistent and has scored over 60 goals in just two-and-a-bit years.”

The former England C international began his career with Oxford and went on to join Southern League South & West Division outfit North Leigh for whom he scored 80 goals in two seasons. Taylor made his debut for Rovers on the opening day of the 2014/15 season and ended the campaign as the club’s top scorer, with 21 goals in all competitions, and an appearance at Wembley in the Promotion Play Off Final. Last season, his first ever as a Football League player, he scored 28 goals, including two hat-tricks.

Chris Lines

James’ second choice was a steady head in the middle, Chris Lines is currently in his second stint at the club: “An experienced league One campaigner, he has had a fantastic start to the season and has been one of Rovers most consistent performers in central midfield.”

Having completed his studies at Filton College, Lines joined the first team squad for pre-season training in the summer of 2005 and was signed as a non-contract player, before signing pro-terms in January 2006. Only the form shown by Craig Disley and Stuart Campbell denied him an extended run in the first team in 2006/07. The now 30-year-old departed for Sheffield Wednesday in 2011, where spells with Mk Dons and Port Vale would follow before returning to the Memorial Stadium. An accomplished midfielder, with a deceptive turn of pace, he distributes the ball well and has an eye for goal.

Tom Lockyer

All three of James’ choices centred around consistency, something that has been a large factor in the sides recent success, his final pick was Tom Lockyer: “Another very consistent player and one that Darrell Clarke always picks, regardless of the fact that he is known for continually changing his first team. He is a young skipper with a lot of potential for the future.”

The Cardiff born youngster was released by his hometown club after spending time on their books as a schoolboy, and joined Rovers on a two-year scholarship in the summer of 2011. A successful first season as a professional saw him make 47 appearances in all competitions and win the Supporters Club Young Player of the Year Award. The centre-back captained the side in the season’s opener against Scunthorpe United and is an U21 international for Wales.

“Rovers have probably punched quite a bit above their weight and I don’t think anyone expected them to be where they are now. I think after promotion, the most anybody hoped for was mid-table and to avoid being involved in a relegation scrap, but the players from last season have all stepped up.

“The new signings have also added a bit of quality and depth to what was a small squad and they have quite a few options now, I don’t think anybody would complain at the start that they have had.

“They can expect Rovers to try and win the game that is for sure, they never go anywhere looking for a draw, or to sit back.

“They try and play the ball on the ground and play some nice football, while they have a few exciting players that are good to watch. Lets just say they will do better than last time they were at Chesterfield when they lost 3-1.”

Following two successive promotions Rovers fans will be quietly dreaming of a third, and James believes that while that is unlikely, the Gas have the squad depth to sustain a top-half finish. 

“I think that they have got a squad thats deep enough to withstand any injuries or suspensions, although they will probably add one, or two more players in the January transfer window.

“Rovers certainly have a chance of sustaining their position and even challenging for the play-offs, but it is a very competitive league so it is hard to predict where they will end up. There are so many teams within touching distance of each, between where Rovers are and the bottom four.

“Based on the evidence of the first half of the season, I cannot see them finishing anywhere below mid-table, while they could still potentially be a contender in the play-offs.”

The Rovers journalist also had words of praise for Spireites manager Danny Wilson, and asserted his belief that the 56-year-old is the man to turn the clubs fortunes around.

“It is difficult for me to predict this game as I have only seen Chesterfield play briefly this season, but I know Danny from his time at Swindon, and I know that he is a really good manager.

“He is very tactically aware and always manages to foster a good team spirit amongst his squad. I know Chesterfield are struggling in the league, but I don’t think that they could have a better man to sort them out than him.

“I am pretty certain it will be a tough game for Rovers and it is certainly one that Clarke won’t be taking lightly.”

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Breakthrough Beesley Hoping to be Positive Omen

After becoming the latest Spireite to move through the academy and into the first team, Jake Beesley is now hoping to show the manager that he belongs in the starting 11.

With the striker’s first start for the Spireites at MK Dons coinciding with the club’s first win in eight league matches, the 19-year-old is hoping to convince the manager that he is a positive omen.

“Hopefully he see’s that,” Beesley laughed. “Obviously I was buzzing to get my first league start. I have been here since I was 14-years-old, so it is a dream come to true to get a first start. I am just buzzing.

“I had a hard season last year, I basically missed half of the season with injuries, I tore my MCL and then broke my foot, so it has just made me that little bit hungrier to try and get into the team.

“You have just got to keep going and make sure your attitude is spot on every day in training. You need to make sure you are working hard everyday, and just hope that the chance comes and when it does you have got to try and take it.”

Having come through the youth academy with best friend Laurence Maguire, who has also made his first-team debut this season, Beesley spoke of his relationship with the centre-back.

“Loz was buzzing for me, we have been best mates since we were about 12-years-old and we came through school together. It is amazing really that we are still playing football together and both doing what we love, it is brilliant, he’s encouraged me all the way.”

Beesley also spoke of the impact his dad Paul, a former professional footballer with Wigan Athletic, Sheffield United and Leeds United, has had on his career.

“My dad told me to keep calm, to relax and to take the opportunity with two hands because at the end of the day this is what I want to do and I had to try and take the chance when it came.

“He gives me little pointers as to what he didn’t like to play against as a centre-back, he just said work hard, don’t give the centre halves a minute and be a nuisance up there.

“He has a had a huge influence, he has always kept my head down and kept me grounded. I think I owe a lot to my dad really, just for being there and helping me all the way through.”

 

O’Neil: “We have got to keep doing what we’re doing”

A midfielder by trade, Liam O’Neil has been relishing an extended run of games in his natural position and will be hoping the Spireites upturn in form will see him cement his place in the side.

The Spireites take a break from league action this weekend when Wycombe Wanderers travel to the Proact for the second round of the FA Cup, and the 23-year-old spoke of the confidence a third win out of three could bring them.
The former West Bromwich midfielder said: “Our target before the MK Dons game was to get three wins out of three and we have two of the three so far so hopefully we can progress in the Cup as well. That would just top it off and give us something to build on and confidence which is what we need.
“I think me and Connor Dimaio have done well in there, we had a ten, 15 minute spell where we panicked a bit and that is where we have got to really get the ball under control and control the game.
“Their second goal wouldn’t have come had we relaxed a bit more and kept the ball, but it is obviously positive for me to play in my natural position.”
Having came into the side during a period of poor form, O’Neil spoke of his determination to help turn it around and prove his worth in central-midfield.
“I was disappointed when I originally came back into the side and we weren’t picking up results. That gives the gaffer an opportunity to change it, but he has stuck by me and Connor and performances have been good, so yeah I am happy to be in a central-midfield position.”
Hard fought 3-2 wins against MK Dons and Bristol Rovers will only have strengthened the midfielders case as Danny Wilson looks to bring some solidarity to the Spireites’ midfield.
“I thought we grinded it out against Bristol. It wasn’t the one of the prettiest performances on a personal level or on a team level, but I think that is what is important and that is what has been the difference.
“We have been playing well, but haven’t been clinical in either box. We have conceded two goals today which we probably shouldn’t have, but at the end of the day it is three points and a step in the right direction.”
Asked how the side can carry the up-turn in form into the FA Cup, the 23-year-old pinpointed two key areas.
“We have just got to keep doing what we are doing, I think the two wide boys have obviously upped their game as well, Reece Mitchell has came in and done really well.
“We just have to give Wycombe the respect they deserve, the main thing is to get the win and get through to the next round, it might not be pretty but you have got to do that.”

 

Spireites Head Through After Dale Checkatrade Win

The Spireites continued into round three of the Checkatrade Trophy after a 2-0 win over Rochdale, in a feisty tie where both sides had a man sent off.

After an even start the Spireites took the lead when Laurence Maguire scored his first senior goal with a firm header from a corner midway through the first half.
Early in the second period Dale defender Jimmy McNulty picked up a second yellow card after an off-the-ball tangle with Ched Evans to reduce the hosts to ten men, before Evans himself doubled the advantage with a clinical low strike.Spireites defender Tom Anderson received a straight red with 20 minutes to go, and the visitors had to ward off late Rochdale pressure to book their place in Thursday morning’s third-round draw.

The trio of Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Reuben Noble-Lazarus and Sanmi Odelusi were proving a handful for the Spireites in the opening stages of the game as they targeted the left-hand side of Chesterfield’s defence.

Both Mendez-Laing and Noble-Lazarus had attacked down that side but it was Odelusi with the closest attempt, the winger cut inside and fired at the near post of Lloyd Allinson, but the Spireites ‘keeper was equal to it.

While they had matched the home side for possession, the Spireites first real attempt on goal came after 20 minutes.

An Evans strike ricocheted off a defender and fell for Rai Simons, the forward struck it on the volley but it was parried out for a corner.

The first goal came direct from the resulting set-play, Maguire (24) knocking the ball into the far corner with his head.

Rochdale could have equalised instantly had it not been for Allinson, the stopper pushing the ball over after Dale’s volleyed shot had bounced before him.

The game had subdued somewhat since the Spireites goal, but Evans was forced to head the ball off the line after a corner had been powerfully directed at goal by Aaron Morley.

The away side soon had another chance themselves, Dan Gardner latched onto a loose ball and flung it into the box, Jake Beesley headed back but Simons couldn’t meet it.

Another corner nearly saw another goal, this time it was Simons who got his head to it, but his effort was weak and easily collected by Conrad Logan.

His defensive partner had scored the first and Anderson almost doubled the advantage from a freekick, the ball was sent in from the right but again it was too weak to beat Logan.

Not ten minutes into the half and Dale were down to 10 men, McNulty was caught kicking Evans during the freekick and given his marching orders.

Both were shown yellows for their part in the grapple, but McNulty was sent off having already been carded in the first half.

Connor Dimaio snatched the ball and threaded it inbetween two Dale defenders to Beesley, but the young striker couldn’t get there fast enough as it dribbled out of play.

The Spireites made the extra man pay shortly after, a lofted-ball timed perfectly from the back was brought down by Evans (59), and eased past Logan who barely reacted.

Chesterfield had settled following the second goal, but Simons should have reacted better to a cross from the right. The striker, unmarked, could only watch as the ball sailed past him.

Chesterfield went down to ten men themselves in the 66th minute due to another off-the-ball incident, this time it was Anderson who saw red after appearing to shove a Dale midfielder.

Dion Donohue then saved the Spireites after Jamie Allen’s volley had gone straight past Allinson, the full-back desperately got back to whack it off the line.

Allen had another attempt minutes later, the midfielder struck low from the right of the box, but Allinson saved well.

Having only just entered the field Ian Evatt was instantly called into action. The 35-year-old charged back, slid in and nicked the ball from between the Dale attackers legs who had sprinted away on the counter.

The substitute was there to protect the lead once more, but this time Evatt’s challenge received a yellow card as he brought down the Dale attacker and conceded a freekick.

Chesterfield had all 10 men behind the ball but Allinson had to be at his best again, the ‘keeper acrobatically denied Morley who had snapped a half volley at the top-corner.

Former Spireite Donal McDermott then tricked his way past three Chesterfield defenders but his shot went someway past the right-post to all but confirm the Chesterfield victory.

 

Allinson: “I don’t really suffer with nerves”

Despite making his league debut and a series of impressive saves, Lloyd Allinson could take little satisfaction from the game at Fleetwood as the Spireites’ winless run continued.

The 23-year-old replaced Ryan Fulton in the starting 11 as Danny Wilson’s side looked to turn-around their poor form and the stopper started well, denying Amari’i Bell from close range in the opening ten minutes.
“My confidence went up after their first chance,” Allinson admitted. “I was just looking to stay strong and keep the ball out of the net. Obviously though that didn’t happen in the first or the second half, so it is a bit disappointing, luckily we have got Tuesday night to go again.
“The result was all that mattered, and while it was a good thing for me to make my debut, that wasn’t what I was thinking about today.
“I was in there to do a job and we didn’t come away with what we wanted so I am a bit disappointed, but on a personal side I was happy to be playing.”
Although he conceded twice, the former Huddersfield Town ‘keeper looked confident in his first league start, but revealed that he had little time to prepare for the match.
“I only found out in the changing room just before the game, so it was a little bit out of the blue, but I was ready to come in, I have been ready since I signed.
“I don’t really suffer with nerves, I tend to block it out a bit and there wasn’t really much time to think about it anyway, I just get on and do a job.
“It is different to training, you have got to do the business on the pitch and to be fair it is not something that I am alien to even though it was my first league start.
“I think we are all just disappointed with the result, that is all that mattered. Take my performance away, good or bad it doesn’t matter, the thing is, we are down at the bottom of the table and today was about getting the win but unfortunately it didn’t come off.”

With another fixture on Tuesday night against MK Dons, the Yorkshireman will be hoping to retain his place in the side and called upon his teammates to put things right.

“We just need to finish our chances, the fans that came today – who were brilliant by the way – will have seen today that we have had really good chances to win.
“At the back we made some good blocks and some good decisions, it was just the final third and putting the ball into the back of the net. We can call it unlucky but there is only so many times you can say that.”

 

Journalists View: Scunthorpe United

This was another idea of mine, before each home fixture the media team interview the local journalist of the opposition, we get their view on the teams form and their three key players, this is more interesting than the standard biographies and gives an up-to-date view of the opposition.

Craig Draycott spoke to Paul Crute from the Scunthorpe Telegraph who gave his thoughts on Scunthorpe Town’s outstanding start to the season and picked out his three key players.

Murray Wallace:

The Iron signed Crute’s first choice Murray Wallace from Huddersfield Town on a permanent basis in January 2016, on the centre back, he said: “He has been an absolute rock. I don’t think he has missed a game since he joined us and his partnership with David Mirfin is probably one of the best we have ever had. It is not just his defending but the way that he plays out from defence, he has an eye for a pass and that is a part of the game that a lot of League One defenders don’t have.”
The Glasgow-born defender began his youth career with Rangers and Falkirk before signing for Huddersfield in January 2012 for £300,000.  Former Iron manager Mark Robins would then work with the young defender during his time at the club between February 2013 and August 2014.

Josh Morris:

The reporter’s second choice was the division’s in-form player Josh Morris, Crute opened up on their star player: “He is one you will have heard a lot about, at the time of speaking he is the top goalscorer in Europe with 12 goals in all competitions, while he has five assists as well. This season just seems to have happened for him, he worked under Graham Alexander at Fleetwood when he was on loan there which has helped, but he just seems to be scoring for fun, his all round game has been brilliant and he pushes other people in the team on and I think that they respond to it.”

The Iron completed the signing of Bradford City midfielder Josh Morris on a free transfer in June 2016. Morris is a versatile player, as well as playing on the left side and centre of midfield, he is also capable of playing at left-back. Born in Preston, the Under-20 international began his career with Blackburn Rovers and he made 20 league appearances for them before departing to Bradford City.

Stephen Dawson:

Crute’s final choice was the sides leader and captain, Stephen Dawson: “He has been playing more of an advanced role this season and he has so much energy. He drives the team on and I think after being injured for a lot of last season he has came back and is starting to show the fans who he really is, he is always pushing forward and always giving 100%. I don’t think there will a time during the game where you will see him stopping.”

United made midfielder Stephen Dawson their first signing of the summer of 2015, the midfielder is a former Republic of Ireland U21 international, and started his career as a youth at Leicester City. He went on to ply his trade at Mansfield Town between 2005 and 2008 before spells at Bury and Leyton Orient, earning a move to Championship side Barnsley in 2012. He turned down a new deal there in 2014 and joined Keith Hill’s Rochdale, where he played a pivotal part in their play-off push.
“Last season we were challenging for the play-offs so I don’t think what has happened this season is unexpected. It was only our poor start to the last campaign that let us down, but Graham Alexander took over in March and we had a tremendous run towards the end of the season where we won our last six games, narrowly missing out on the play-offs on goal difference.

“Everyone said that if we transferred the form and momentum from last season into this season then we had a really good chance to push for promotion. In addition to that we only lost four players during the summer and kept the rest of the team together, while adding the likes of Morris, Duane Holmes and Sam Mantom. The fact that we kept the team together and then added to it, I think a lot of people expected us to do well and it has just snowballed from there. Everyone knew that we had a good team, it was just a case of getting it to click in the right way, which obviously Alexander has done.”

Alexander was appointed as manager of Scunthorpe United on a three-and-a-half year contract in March 2016 after a spell as manager of Fleetwood. As a player Alexander made over 100 appearances for Scunthorpe and with the club top of the table, he has made a positive impact second time around.

“Alexander has made a very, very good impression,” Crute continued. “He was a player with us when he was younger so he has always had that link with the club. It is just the way that he speaks and the way he works, you can see he puts meticulous preparation into everything that he does, into every single game and he wants his players to do the same.

“He likes to constantly tinker with the formation and his team because he wants his players to work at such a high intensity that you can’t have all the players doing that amount of work for 46 games. However we’ve got such a strong squad that if someone is rested or out with injury then we have always got somebody else to come in and do the same job.”

The Iron currently sit four points clear at the top of League One and while Crute insists that no one is getting carried away, he see’s no reason why the side can’t go up.

“Obviously there are going to be challenges throughout the season, whether this is unexpected injuries or suspensions; but like I said previously, we have got such a strong squad and so many strong players in so many positions that if we do struggle with injuries or suspensions – which we inevitably will – then there are always people there to step in.

“I don’t think anybody is getting carried away, we are top of the league and everybody is enjoying it at the moment but I don’t think it is until after the New Year that you can really start to look at the table. However, if we can continue what we are doing at the moment then I think there is every chance we can go up.”

With the team performing so strongly in the league, Crute told Spireites fans what to expect when the Iron travel to the Proact.

“I think you should expect a pressing game from Scunthorpe, we are always closing down the opposition very quickly. It is going forward that we are at our most potent at the moment where we have Josh Morris, who plays on the left and Duane Holmes who plays on the right feeding Tom Hopper.

“We may stay with that 4-3-3, or we might change to a 4-4-2, depending on what Alexander wants to do because Paddy Madden, who has been injured for the first two-and-a-half months of the season, came on against MK Dons and scored two. Whatever formation he plays you will see an attacking game from us, while we will try and keep it tight at the back as well.”

A Spireites Dozen:

 

This is a quickfire Q&A featured in the Chesterfield programme, an idea I came up with and developed myself:

What Super Power would you have that could improve your footballing game?

Unlimited speed

What Footballer did you pretend to be while playing in the park as a child?

Ruud Van Nistelrooy

What one weird rule would you add to football to make it funnier?

No offsides

What is your pet hate?

Messy People

Who would play you in a film about your life?

Leonardo Di Caprio, because of his performance in Wolf Of Wall Street

Your favourite childhood toy?

Wrestlers

What item of clothing do you own too much of?

Shoes

What three items are always in your fridge?

Sweets, Lucazade and Spinach

Your weirdest talent?

Im to normal, I don’t have a weird talent

What would you sing at Karaoke?

Mario – Let me love you

What are you currently watching on Netflix?

It’s not Netflix, but The Hunted on Channel Four

Who is the most famous person you’ve met?

Rio Ferdinand, because we actually share the same agent

Ghost Writing: Gary Liddle’s Column

Welcome back to the Proact for today’s game.

This is the first time I have had a chance to speak since match here against Millwall and it was massively disappointing to come away from that with a defeat, not only that but the manner of the defeat.

A lot has been said since that and it was disappointing to follow it up with another two defeats but I think it was been case of very fine margins in those games and unfortunately we found ourselves on the wrong side of them.

It was a good reaction at Oldham, it was important that although we didn’t win the game, that that we didn’t lose it either. It gives us a foot hold to come into Northampton with a bit of confidence, the clean sheet was a major plus for us and we will be looking to put on a performance today.

Although we have scored a few goals this season we have conceded a few as well, and you are not going to win games very often if you are not keeping goals out. That is not just the defence or the goalkeeper that is everyone. The clean sheet at the weekend was a good confidence booster, and the defence were terrific against Oldham.

Transfer deadline day obviously saw Charlie Raglan go to Oxford and I think that will be great for him, he is a good lad, a good player and he just wants to play football. We have obviously brought Connor Wilkinson in ourselves as we were probably a little light at the top-end of the pitch so he gives us another option there and he done well against Oldham at the weekend.

Tom Anderson has obviously came back from Burnley as well, he is a great lad who played well when he was with us last season and I have kept in touch with him. Tom was always keen on coming back but was not quite sure up until a couple of days beforehand that anything was going to happen.

Thankfully he got the call and it is good, it adds extra competition at the back with Hird, Evatt and young lads like Laurence Maguire. There is healthy competition there and that is needed if we are going to be successful this season.

Enjoy the game.

Gary Liddle.

Programme Q&A: Behind the Scenes: Peter Clarke

This weeks ‘Behind the Scenes’ focus is on Events and Hospitality manager Peter Clarke. Clarke is one of the busiest members of staff at the club and any Spireites fan who has visited an event at the Proact will most likely have seen him running around the hospitality areas, equipped with a tea towel or two.

Job Title:
Events and Hospitality manager at the Proact Stadium

What does it involve?

“Looking after all the events that are using our various function rooms, from match-day food, player’s breakfasts and lunches, weddings, christenings, funeral wakes, birthdays and all private hires. We do anything from a buffet room hire to a full three/four course meal. People then also use our sponsorship and commercial rooms for meetings, seminars and conferences.”

“We are under strict guidance by Mal Purchase, the club’s nutritionist, in regards to the player’s food, this is breakfast, lunch and then dinner after home games. We will also often do the food for the team bus on away games. We provide the players with everything they need in order to build up what they have lost after a fixture or a training session, right up to all the healthy berries.

“There are a couple of fussy eaters at the club, but I won’t name names! I even taught one the players the other day what granulated sugar was! He just thought that all sugar was the white stuff that looks like sand.”

What skills does this require?

“Obviously you need to be able to deal with customers hands on and in the modern world of the tablet, android and iPhone, the art of one-to-one communication and customer service has increased. I love this side of the job and am responsible for making sure that both me and my team give the customers a great experience whenever they attend the Proact.”

What is your background?

“I have always been in this type of industry, I have managed various pubs, restaurants, hotels, night-clubs and other sports stadiums, with an array of various different functions. All of these jobs were attended very heavily by customers on a regular basis and require me to have a close attention to detail and look after their needs. Everywhere I have worked I have focused on meeting the customer’s expectations.

“I worked at the Owlerton Stadium where we had Speedway, Stock Car racing, Monster Truck racing and both Sheffield FC mens and ladies played there, as did the Sheffield Eagles.”

How did you get the job at Chesterfield?

“I was made aware that the position was available and I applied through the usual channels, I had the interview and was successful in my application.”

How many days do you work in an ordinary week?

“It is generally a five-day week, but they are never 9-5 hours, a few weeks ago I worked a 19-hour shift on a Saturday, a 12-hour shift on a Sunday and then started at 8.00am on the Monday ready for the player’s breakfast. We then have the player’s lunch at-least four days a week and then we regularly have the ‘Senior Spireites’ lunch.

“There are an array of events that we have here on a regular basis and all these events go on behind the scenes. We have blood donors, bankers, accountants and last month we even done four weddings and a funeral.”

What do you do outside of the football club?

“I have to answer emails and phone calls pretty much 24/7 so that keeps me busy, people are constantly enquiring about private parties. While I may not actually be at the club seven days a week, I find that I am forever giving prices and information about events. Nick Johnson in media is very pro-active in booking events as well.”

“When I do get spare time I like to look after myself, I go to the gym and play golf when i can, even if it doesn’t always show!”

What item do you use most often?

“The tea towels carrying the food about the place and the waitress trolley which is priceless to us!”

Mayo International Cup Invite

Academy coach Darren Molloy spoke of his delight this week as his under 11’s were invited back to the Mayo International Cup in Ireland, a tournament that they last year won.

The tournament, previously only available to under 16’s, gives younger players the opportunity to experience the life of a professional footballer.

The clubs lead development coach said: “We beat Millwall in the final, which was brilliant and hopefully this year they can go and do themselves proud again.

“Last year we learnt a lot about the kids both on and off of the pitch, the group really improved socially and had even more of a bond when we came back, it was a great experience that they still all talk about.

“There was some fantastic football on display and we grew our reputation as a club, so much so that we have been invited back and with the kids being a year older, it makes the tournament a little more serious too.”

Chesterfield will be the only English representatives at the nine-a-side tournament and will come up against Northern Ireland, Scotland and then a variety of district teams from the Republic of Ireland.

Darren, who hails from Ireland himself, spoke of the differing style of football in Ireland and the challenges that this bring, he continued: “It is a much rawer way of playing football in Ireland, it is a lot more physical, so coming from an academy in England where the football is maybe of a nicer nature, it does take them a few matches to get used to the physicality of the match.

“We tend to be technically better and dominate for periods of the ball, but then it is how we can handle the other side of the game which is equally as important, the main difference for me is that it is competition and it is about winning.

“It is about sleeping right, eating right and drinking right, preparing themselves properly for matches and having that professional football lifestyle for a weekend as an 11/12 year-old.

“It will be interesting to see how different young kids step up to the mark and how they handle the pressure and show the desire to win games. There are four games in the group and then the top two play in a final in the afternoon.

“The Friday will primarily be about getting there, we have a training session that night at the venue to ensure that the kids are familiar with the surrounding and then Saturday is an all football day before coming back on Sunday morning.”

Alongside Mayo, Darren’s younger sides have also been invited to a number of tournaments abroad in what promises to be an exciting year.

“This is probably the first of a few competitions that we will be doing across the academy this year, last week our under 9’s and under 10’s were invited to a tournament in Belgium. This will feature teams such as R.S.C. Anderlecht, FC Twente and Schalke and to be mixing with those kind of teams is fantastic for Chesterfield and a great opportunity for the kids.

“This weekend will be the start of a really positive year trip-wise which comes off the back of performing well in previous tournaments like the Mayo international cup that we won last year.

“Mayo got the ball rolling and now we are being provided with a number of opportunities elsewhere. Teams see that Chesterfield – a category three club – have got really good players and can compete against really strong opposition.”

“The main thing is giving the children an opportunity and a memory that they will remember, giving them something new with the competition factor and for them to mix well as a team. It also allows us as coaches to get to see the other sides of the kids that you don’t always get to see at football.”