After a period of uncertainty for the future of Netherton a call of help was put out across the club for any help with the team for the interim. Initially Bradley Fearnley offered his services to coach the squad and a week or so later I joined him. After observing my first session of Netherton from the side-line it was clear to see the group would benefit from lessons with a clear aim and structure. It was evident that a range of ability within the team made it difficult to retain everyone’s focus, however with the introduction and continuity of two coaches it enabled sessions to be beneficial to the group as a whole. From the outset it was clear that it would take a monumental effort to not only imprint a recognised style of play for the team but more importantly raise individual player technique to try to achieve the former. It was a challenge that both Bradley and I embraced with a ‘no nonsense’ approach which was reassuringly accepted by the team’s parents. To give the team the best possible chance at competitive football the decision was made to change leagues from Gateshead to Durham which meant that Netherton would not play matches until the start of the new winter league.
The start of the new league also brought fresh faces into the team in the form of the twin partnership of Zac and Evie. Zac had an admirable raw talent that provided much needed additional quality to the side. Evie’s delightful positive attitude was infectious throughout the squad and her relationship with her Brother for me showed the core values of team work that I wanted to instil with Netherton. My first experience of match days with the squad was very frustrating as you could feel the lack of confidence within them. It was deeply saddening to watch as the glimpses of success I had witnessed in training were not being replicated in matches this was solely due to the self-induced pressure they had applied to themselves due to previous matches. I was determined to lift this ‘hoodoo’ and I constantly reassured the team that results meant nothing to me and it was the application of what they had learned in training that mattered the most.
Very much being a ‘reactive’ team I continued to work hard to lift the confidence within Netherton and you could see the penny was starting to drop among the squad. Resounding defeats soon changed into narrow defeats and then finally the win came ironically under the guidance of a covering coach. It was then in the New Year that our second win came from arguably the team’s best performance of the season. Personally this was the pinnacle of the season as it was a moment of realisation for me, the players and their parents that Netherton had finally begun to turn a corner. For me it’s moments like these that make grass roots football so rewarding, to be able to persevere through the difficult times, buy into the change and then celebrate the hard work in the long run.
Unfortunately this is the end of my tenure with Netherton but it’s only the beginning for the players. This season has been the foundation to build on, reflect and see where you are now compared to where you were and take all that positivity forward into whatever you choose to do next.