Football: Bede’s Holland Tour 2016
The annual Bede's Football Tour commenced early on Friday 26 August with the squad this year journeying to Amsterdam.
After a calm passage across the channel we arrived at our hotel at around 10pm, ate a late dinner and some sleep before our training session the next morning.
Once up, the boys headed off kitted out in their brand new Bede’s tour kit and went to train at local club SV Rap.
The club’s training ground boasted immaculate 3G pitches and the teams split off to work on technique and fitness under beautiful 25-degree sunshine.
The boys benefitted enormously from the opportunity to blow out the cobwebs with a combination of passing drills and conditioning work and left the session feeling fresh, enjoying a quick lunch at a nearby golf club before a taking part in a guided tour of the famous Amsterdam Arena, home to the mighty Ajax.
The boys saw the away team changing room and press conference area before walking up the tunnel onto pitch-side, drinking in the enormous stadium which has played host to both Champions League fixtures and Dutch national team games.
After numerous photo opportunities the team left the stadium via the player's car park, peeking inside the complimentary Mercedes and igniting the boys interest in becoming professional footballers.
Next on the agenda was a tour of Amsterdam by water. The canal boat took the teams right through the centre of the city, admiring the unique architecture and photographing tourist attractions, including Anne Frank's house.
After dinner at the hotel, the group moved into the hotels conference room for a Sports Quiz, including 5 "Brucie Bonus" rounds to test the boys more obscure football knowledge.
The winning team were "Mr Caryer's Coaching Skills" by a large majority, having dubiously recalled 14/18 Dutch professional league teams!
The next day followed a similar pattern, with training at SV Rap in the morning followed by a trip – this time to AZ Alkmaar to watch an Eredivisie game between AZ Alkmaar and South-Holland team NEC.
An early night was then in order, as all thoughts turned towards the upcoming fixtures against unknown Dutch opposition.
Monday saw the boys head to Ajax's training ground and academy to receive the first of two training sessions from Ajax coaches. The boys were in awe of the quality of the facilities which were unsurprisingly world-class, but any gawkers were quickly cajoled into an intensive technical training session.
The players were challenged by the high expectations of their Dutch mentors. Dribbling and footwork drills were Monday's focus, with the boys’ fitness and ability being developed in an invaluable hour's training.
The coaches then showed the team some of the Ajax first team's training facilities, including a "bubble" pitch – a full sized 3G pitch inside an air-lock bubble with perfectly controlled playing conditions.
After returning to the hotel for team meetings, the players headed north for the first round of fixtures against FC Blokkers. An unexpected detour by the coach driver meant that the 1st XI and the U15s had only ten minutes to warm up before kick off at 7:00.
Fortunately, this did not seem to hinder them.
In the 1st XI fixture, the team delivered a 4-0 win with goals from Matt Pickering, Oliver Welbourne, Isaac Drogba and Ryan Wells. Pickering opened the scoring midway through the first half with a looping header from just inside the 18 yard box.
Welbourne added to this not long after – having been played through by Drogba, he accelerated beyond the last defender before dropping his shoulder and sending the goalkeeper to ground before finishing cooly.
Not long before the break it was Welch’s turn. A cross by Oliver Bowen was only half cleared by Blokkers, and a second attempt at the clearance sent the ball looping out 25 yards from goal. Welch timed his run perfectly and arrived to volley the ball expertly, arcing the ball over the helpless keeper into the top corner.
After a quick team talk at half time, the teams returned to shape up for the second half. Isaac calmly put away a penalty half way through the second period and Bede's ground out the remainder to cement a first tour victory.
Simultaneously, the U15 team cruised to an 11-0 victory, including goals from Rex Lane, Joshua Ogunkoya and Temba Wardle and Nasje Smith.
At 8:30, the second team kicked off in what turned into another rout for the Bede's boys, overwhelming the opposition with the teams pace and power.
A formidable defensive partnership of Francesco Pereda and Banj Moore formed a solid base for the team to move into cruise control, with goals from all over the pitch providing plenty of selection headaches for the coaches. Louis Mason gets a particular mention for his first half hat-trick, with his electric pace proving too much for the opposition.
On the final full tour day, the teams returned to Ajax to continue the rigorous technical training they began the day before, before entering into small side games to apply the skills they had learned in training.
The improvement was noticeable, with players confidently deploying creative footwork and intelligent movement to impress the Ajax coaches, who described the Bede's players as "one of the best school sides we have ever trained."
After resting up at the hotel, the teams drove to the nearby SV Ouderkerk. The club's facilities were again very impressive, and the boys enjoyed a lengthy warm up and team photos before kicking off.
The 2nd XI and U15s kicked off simultaneously at 5:30. The 2nd's were presented with more of a challenge in this game, but eventually won out with a 3-1 victory including goals from Louis Mason, Charlie Dumas and Oliver Duncan.
The U15s meanwhile terrorised their opposition, quickly racking up a 3-0 lead after less than 10 minutes.
Mr Dunne made some changes to even up the fixture and Ouderkerk grew into the game, pulling the game back to 4-3, but the Bede's boys still proved their quality, winning 8-3.
Scorers included Rex Lane and Joshua Ogunkoya.
The 1st XI then kicked off at 7pm against a stronger Ouderkerk side, and were forced to step up a gear in order to overcome the opposition.
A first half hat-trick from Isaac Drogba soon allayed any fears, and the team were able to experiment with formation and take a look at a range of players including two boys who came up from the second team to try out.
Second half goals from Louis Mason and Viktor Trauer cemented a victory, and new keeper Greg Shaw made sure the clean sheet was held with some impressive late saves.
Buoyant from their victories, the boys returned for dinner and rest. On Wednesday morning, a short jog around a nearby lake helped ease aching legs before breakfast and the long trip home.
Tired but having thoroughly enjoyed the trip, the team, returned to Bede's ready for the term ahead. The tour was invaluable exercise for the teams and the Football Academy coaches, although the greatest success of the tour was the development of a strong sense of camaraderie.
The teams gelled together throughout the tour and cemented friendships for the year ahead.
Fingers crossed for a superb season!