PSV Eindhoven

ISA Coaching

PSV Eindhoven visit

Friday 31st October 2013-2nd November 2013

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In late 2013, ISA Coaching’s George Lappas and Tom Casling visited PSV Eindhoven Football Club and spent 3 days at PSV’s De Herdgang training facility. The purpose of the visit was to see how one of the leading academy systems in the world develop their young players and bring back some training principles and values that improve our wonderful players back in the UK.  


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PSV’s Senior Team and Academy training ground is located in the outskirts of Eindhoven in beautiful and serene woodland surroundings. Dutch football in general is renowned for its rich heritage of developing young, technically gifted, footballers. PSV Eindhoven is a leading example of how a club can develop young talent. Throughout the years, PSV has established itself as a stepping stone for future world class players like Ruud Gullit, Romário, Ronaldo (Brazilian) and Ruud van Nistelrooy. More recently Arjen Robben, Kevin Strootman and Zakaria Bakkali have graduated from the PSV Academy.


The legendary English coach, Sir Bobby Robson, enjoyed two stints in Eindhoven as Team manager. He first succeeded manager Guus Hiddink in 1990, just after Italia ‘90. PSV won the Dutch league in both the 1990–91 and 1991–92 seasons. He also managed PSV on a short-term deal for the 1998–99 season. That time Robson

led the club to victory in the Dutch Supercup and also qualification for the Champions League on the last day of the season.


Eindhoven is the spiritual home of the Philips technology brand. The football club - Philips Sport Vereniging (‘Philips Sports Club’) - was founded in 1913 as a team for the Philips employees. The two organisations are still closely linked, most obviously in its sponsoring.


On our arrival to the training ground we were immediately met by the friendly face of the Academy Goalkeeping Coach - Abe Knoop - who directed us to a first Team training session.

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Tom and myself made our way to some immaculate training pitches. There were TV cameras and journalists everywhere. It turned out that this was ‘The day after the night before.’ It was Friday and the weekly opportunity for the team and coaching staff to meet the fans and sign autographs. However, PSV had been knocked out of the Dutch Super Cup the night before and the Media were keen to get some reasons for this failure. Needless to say they sought out the opinion of another legendary English coach named George Lappas to get his opinion. Now my Dutch isn’t great,  so in true Steve McClaren style (under pressure and with a TV camera in my face) I answered in English but with my best Dutch accent so they could understand!


It is a bit of a cliche, but it is worth mentioning how amazing it is that every single Dutch person we met on our trip spoke perfect English. It is also worth noting how unbelievably friendly and helpful everybody was. They always made the effort to go the extra mile to help us and make sure we had a positive experience. They showed us real hospitality and had pride in their country.   

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The first academy session we observed on Friday was with the Under 11 age group. This squad of players was the team we probably watched the most and, therefore, the players we got to know the best.


The players arrived at the Academy ground in shiny Silver Mercedes bus

es. The vehicles started arriving from 08.00 and continued throughout the day delivering the children to the training ground from the local school and returning them back to their studies after their training. Our first impressions were “Wow…Professionals!”. Obviously, the players were too young to be paid, but they were treated and behaved like top pros. We hadn’t even seen them play at this point.


We were not to be disappointed. From the very first session we watched the standard of play was truly jaw dropping. The technique, intelligence and decision making were amazing. The discipline and competitiveness were fantastic. It was obvious the children wanted to succeed and they didn’t want to let themselves down for one moment. There was not one occasion where the players’ behaviour was anything less than professional. A real winning mentality.


Over the three days we watched many, many training sessions from 9am to 9pm. We watched all the age groups warm up, train, eat, chill out and socialise together. The 7-year olds mixed and ate together with the U21s (Reserves). Ruud van Nistelrooy (now a coach, along with PSV legends Boudewijn Zenden and Andre Ooijer) would sit at the table with the young players and chat. Tom and myself watched and spoke to coaches, occasionally snatching a tomato soup and coffee when we could. Any spare time we had we filled taking notes.   


Our Final Day in Eindhoven was game day. We were keen to see if all this wonderful training we had witnessed would be transferred to the matches. Again, we were not disappointed. We watched match after match of youth football that seemed to come from another planet. What was astounding was watching the youngest players

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effortlessly switching positions and showing such extraordinary technique and movement. We were lucky to watch our favourites, the Under 11s, play Roda JC. The under 16s played Feyenoord, the Dutch equivalent of Manchester United vs Liverpool, in a very feisty game.


The coaches, whether in training or throughout the matches,  were not screaming instructions from the sidelines. Instead they remained calm and trusted the players to make the right decisions and learn for themselves. Occasionally, they would step in to make a point or to show the players an alternative way of doing things. The players didn’t need to be any 

more motivated. They maintained the high tempo throughout the training and matches themselves.  

After the games, the youngest age groups all finished with ‘Friendly’ penalty competitions - win or lose. This was to prepare the players for the inevitable moment in their future when they would have to step up to take a penalty kick under pressure. The banter between the two teams was great.

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Before leaving, we spoke with two Academy coaches - Martin de Laat and Leon Buitenhuis. They took the time after their game to sit with us and answer many of the questions that we had and were interested to hear our experiences of coaching in England. We are extremely grateful to them for their time and for being so forthcoming and honest.


What did we learn? From a football coaching perspective, what Tom and myself brought back from our trip was the attention that was paid to technique and particularly on how the children repeatedly practised striking the ball from a young age. Culturally, what we also learned was how pivotal the football club was to the local community. There was a real bond. The parents, children, coaches and players from both teams took time to mix and socialise together long after training and matches. The atmosphere was always open and friendly.  


We hope to return to PSV soon to develop our knowledge and and bring back some more tips from this wonderful football club.   


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