Friday, 7 December 2012

Good things come to those who...

They say you should never write a letter when youre angry, nor a blog when you are, for want of better phrasing, gushy!  Unfortunately I am breaking the latter rule, so strap yourself in to a heart felt blog that exposes my more sensitive nice side, which I try and keep hidden from this Oh so manly exterior! (I realise that joke only transcends if you have met me!) 

Firstly,  I must apologise for the appalling grammar and spelling you are about to be subjected too. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that a person who this post concerns usually does my spell checking and I am frankly too embarrassed to show it before it is published.  The second is my Stacey, another lady who I run these blogs past before public opinion casts its weary eye over my words! Not only does this blog contain words concerning Stacey, but at the time of writing it is currently 3am in the UK and I am not sure it would go down too well. 

I am currently on the bus. It's 8.45pm Canadian time and I am on my way back from Niagra Falls. I feel Niagra is somewhat to blame for my slightly philosophical mood. So, as a famous song within the cartoon 'South Park' alludes to 'blame Canada!'

I am sitting on an empty bus the child in me still ran to the back seats. At the age of 25 I still retain the idea that this is where the cool kids sit. So as I sit smugly looking out of the window with my Walkman plugged in (kids reading this, it's an iPod but I have to cater for these old guys, bare with me) I thought I would write this.

I was very kindly invited to Toronto, Canada by the owner of Little Kickers to work on a very exciting project. Very few people who come over here make it back and I can see why, it is a beautiful city.  I have had the pleasure of working alongside some great people this week, I am in a very lucky position in my world of work in that I am surrounded by a group of hardworking individuals that are so passionate about everything Little Kickers and, in some ways, more importantly just want to enjoy life in the process.  This was never more apparent than last night when, luckily for me, I had managed to time my visit with the Canadian Christmas get-together. A chance for Coaches and your local franchisees to meet over a glass of lemonade and a mixture of salads.

It was needless to say an amazing evening. It confirmed everything that I had previously thought about our company. It is no fluke that everyone I meet within the company is a person who I now consider a friend. What's more,  we are by no means carbon copies of each other, opposites in some cases, but there is always a common ground and passion for what we do. A shared enthusiasm and a way of approaching 'work' as we would want toin life.

Fasten your seat-belts, I warned you this could get gushy...

You may not realise it, but the class you attend all began because of our owners frustration at the lack of provision for the pre school age group, along with the increasingly worrying generation of 'computer kids' whose reality was sometimes confused with a screen. Not only has Christine provided your children with, and I say this with great confidence, brilliant classes but also offering employment to our amazing coaches giving them an opportunity to do what they love... as a job!  Furthermore, it has given franchisees a platform to join our way of life, our style of work and with that they bring an enthusiasm that allows us to role out these classes to your area. 

Meeting everyone at the 'do' last night restored my faith in humanity. Admittedly not something I had considered an issue, and as dramatic as it sounds it gave me a rejuvenated enthusiasm why I continue to love my 'job'.  A network of great franchisees, a network of great coaches and a network of great people. 

This was fully confirmed when I was invited by husband and wife franchise owners Bry & Steffani to travel down with then to Niagra Falls. Now I am not planning on getting run over by a bus anytime soon, but it was an amazing chance to cross that off my bucket list. I must add that I have never met or spoken to Steffi or her husband before this trip, yet they invited me to share a 2 hour journey with them so that they could drop me at Niagara Falls. Now, I have a slightly odd mind in that I find it hard to appreciate something if I have nobody to share it with. Stacey knows this only too well. As much as I love seeing and experiencing new things, if I can't voice it and share it with somebody in its live arena, it doesn't feel real it might as well be a dream. Luckily for me, I have Stacey who appreciates and loves the same things I do and luckily for me she makes experiences that little bit better. This may may seem odd, I am sure I will find out when this blog goes live! 

Here's where my trouble lies. Stacey wasn't able to come with me on this trip. And there was no-one around for me to drag them down to be my sidekick. I of course still had to go, it's Niagra Falls! Then, an unforced moment of pure loveliness as Steffi turned round and said I'd love to take you around and show you the falls. Amazing. A lady that only ten hours previous was a complete stranger offered not only herself as a knowledgable guide, but an immediate friend who I could share such, in my eyes, an incredible thing. 

The basis of this blog, was to thank everyone for such a lovely trip. The Stanschus family for welcoming me into their home,  although the dog Bruce was less than impressed - unless growling is dog Candadian for 'I really like you'  the coaches and franchisees I met to Steffi and Bry for your overwhelming generosity not only the ride down to Niagara but your valuable time.  And to the Canadians, you really are a bloomin marvellous bunch, visa is in the post if I can drag Stace with me!

I fear I must leave you with a confession. A few paragraphs above I mentioned about my restoration in the faith of people. The public as a whole. Well, at the moment of writing - I am currently standing watching a man who is making an abstract mural on the wall in front of me. I am quite open minded when it comes to art, however his art seems to base itself on the use of his own urine. 

I suppose it ties this blog together quite nicely, as I realise having moved from my warm bus now standing on a train platform, that I have droned on for quite sometime, and my fingers are beginning to develop frost bite. I suppose it lends itself nicely to the thought that if you surround yourself with good people, more often that not, good things will happen.

Little Kickers are good people.

Niagra Falls

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Fulham FC Offer for Little Kickers

Barclays Premier League Football
Fulham v West Bromwich Albion
£5 off Adult tickets and Kids for a Quid

Fulham Football Club would like to offer Little Kickers players, parents and coaches the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets to Fulham V West Bromwich Albion on Saturday 15 September, kick off 3pm.

Following our 5-0 win against Norwich at Craven Cottage, we would love for you to join us for our second home game of the season. Under 16s tickets start from just £1 and we would also like to offer you a special discount of £5 off Adult tickets in the Putney End.

Adult tickets are usually priced at £30, but you can buy yours for £25 simply by calling 0843 208 1234 (option 3) and quoting “Little Kickers”. Lines are open between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday. We recommend booking your tickets as early as possible as a sell out is expected. This offer will expire at 5pm on Monday 10th September 2012.

Getting to Fulham Football Club is easy, the closest tube station is Putney Bridge on the District Line and Craven Cottage is just a 10 minute walk through Bishops Park.
Before the match, from 12pm, we also have a number of free family activities in Bishops Park. All supporters are invited to enjoy an afternoon of fun before the match.

We look forward to welcoming you to Craven Cottage.

Yours sincerely

Sandra Coles
Ticket Office Manager

*£1 kids tickets increase to £5 on matchday.  All tickets are subject to availability and this offer expires at 5pm on Monday 10th September 2012.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Coach Dave August 2012 Blog – Football Success Through Inclusion Not Perfection

15 years or so ago I became quite keen on the game of golf. My ability was limited to say the least, but I thoroughly enjoyed playing. The scenery, the company, the gentle exercise, the sense of achievement, were all highly appealing. Then again, all these attributes still appeal to me but I haven't picked up a club since the turn of the millennium. Whilst I found that I could hack my way around any course in my unorthodox style, and my putting was as good as any of my peers, I felt a massive pressure to improve.

This pressure came from friends who were better than me. It would appear their beef with my game was my swing, or lack of it. Rather than starting directly above my head, it started from about a 35% angle behind my back leg. I was perfectly happy playing like this – being in my early 20's, any chance of winning the Open had long gone. But they wouldn't let it go. "You've got so much power, you could be awesome if you had a correct swing" was the kind of comment I'd hear on loop. Finally, I gave in and booked a course of lessons with a 'pro'. He was not amused by my style of golf at all. "You can't do that, you must do this, that and the other". I tried, but the higher my swing starting point, the more air shots I made. And that was when I wasn't hacking lumps out the turf. I was hitting everything but the ball.

I persisted for months with what I'd been 'taught'. But gradually lost patience and fell out of love with the game. It wasn't fun any more. It was hard work, frustrating, even embarrassing. When I heard Bubba Watson had surprisingly won the US Masters, one commentator described his style as "Like watching an octopus cut down a tree with a chainsaw". He then went on to remark on how ridiculous Bubba's long arms would look poking out the end of the Green Jacket's sleeves. This seasoned pundit was pretty much saying 'how could such an unorthodox freak win one of golf's biggest prizes?' A man who by his own admission has never taken a single golf lesson! Well he won it pal, and he won it his way.

Who actually wrote the manual for sports which says 'you can't do that and you must do this'? Surely if a technique works and gets results, then it's right. Yes practice is vital to success, as is dedication. but as I heard Howard Wilkinson say recently, "We need to convince players, not tell them". Surely it's basic psychology, 'Don't expect but suggest instead'. Anyone who's ever been nagged at about anything understands this. It's exactly the same with coaching. Present the information in a fun and engaging manner. Don't ram it down their throats.

When Dick Fosbury decided not to do a scissors style high jump in the 1968 Olympics and invented his own 'Fosbury flop' ensuring he won the gold medal and broke the world record in the process, did anyone say 'you can't do that'? Well I'm sure they probably did, but I doubt he cared very much. It's now a technique which has been used ever since and we saw it at London 2012 and I am sure it will continue well into the future. Until someone dares try something different, that is.

So what's this got to do with football and coaching? Everything, I believe. In England we are so obsessed with protocol. What's right, what's wrong, what's 'the done thing'. Until recently, many pro clubs looked at children's parents to see what the child was likely to develop into genetically. Wouldn't be surprised if some still do. Tall Mom and Dad meant little Billy would be big and strong. Little Mom and Dad meant little Billy would stay little and that was no use to them. The logic remains you can turn an athlete into a footballer but you can't turn a footballer into an athlete. Theo Walcott is a good example. At 16 he had a 100 metres time which was borderline Olympic qualification. Wasn't great at football, but hey that's the easy bit to teach isn't it?

Time and again we see comparatively small foreign players who are nothing less than geniuses. Messi, Zola, Juninho, Tevez, Maradona, to name a few. Would these guys have made it in English football? Would the scouts have wanted them? We'll never know. But my guess is we've discarded a wealth of talent at the expense of brawn and power over the years.

11 year ago I was watching West Brom play QPR in a scrappy Championship game. WBA were winning 1-0 and in the 2nd half QPR brought on a young 6"7 bean pole striker called Peter Crouch. The whole stadium rocked with laughter. Myself included, I'm now ashamed to admit. "One Rodney Trotter, there's only one Rodney Trotter" and then "Rodney, Rodney give us a wave” echoed round the Hawthorns.
I, and everyone else in the stadium, had been brought up, conditioned to think people that big were good for one thing only. Basketball. I bumped into the then chief scout at WBA the following week. His name was Richie Barker. Some of the older ones amongst you will recall him as a manager in his own right – I think he was at Wolves and Stoke. Richie was in the winter of his career at this stage. But I'll never forget bringing up the subject of 'That Rodney' and Richie cutting me dead to say "He'll make some player one day, son, you mark my words. He's got it all". I was confused. I liked Richie as a person, and respected his opinion, but surely he was talking rubbish? Well 11 years later Peter Crouch has fetched a combined transfer fee of £47 million, played for England 42 times scoring 22 goals, played 395 pro games scoring 156 goals, oh and he recently scored easily the goal of the season with his sublime technique.

Football fans have selective memories. Doubt many of the 20,000 or so at The Hawthorns that day remember shouting 'Freak' every time he touched the ball now? So Richie was right. But how many Richie Barker's are there in our game at the top level, in junior football and on the terraces? Sadly, very few. Judging a book by it's cover is still the order of the day.

Crouch is probably one of the most gifted footballers English football has produced in recent times. He just doesn't look like he should be.

I believe the way to increase the amount of gifted footballers in our game is to increase the amount of quality football played and coaching received. Skills development centres are becoming far more widespread but are still the poor relation to the league systems. As I've said before, I believe leagues do serve a purpose for some children but there is absolutely no reason why kids can't play in leagues (if they want to and aren't forced by parents) and also attend skills development centres too.

I myself am starting a development centre for year one and two children as my own children have now reached this age and are too old for Little Kickers. My intention is to hold one hour sessions. The first 20 mins or so will concentrate on ball mastery in various situations. Coaching will consist of limited command style, with majority of games having a guided discovery ethos. The rest of the sessions will consist of various small sided games with themes. Smaller numbers the better to encourage higher amount of time on the ball for each player. We'll have a debrief at the end when there'll be a little, relaxed Question and Answer coaching.

We'll have a pool of players of mixed abilities. Sides will be picked and changed, handicapped and swapped. Positions will be changed too. How can an 8 year old truly know they're going to be a goalkeeper for the rest of their lives? They can't. So they'll rotate positions. Learn how to emphasise with team mates, develop a rounded appreciation of all positions. At the end, the children will go home not having won or lost 12-0, but having played football, and, most importantly, lots of it. Hopefully, having thoroughly enjoyed themselves without having (if I'm being kind) nonsense shouted at them. If I'm being honest, sometimes borderline abuse shouted at them.

My philosophy is football coaching should be about inclusion not elitism. I think the English game should work on the basis of 1000 average young children playing in a positive, fun environment is likely to reap greater dividends in the long term than a so called elite group of 20 of whom the majority will fall out of love with the game because of pushy adults and elitist coaching before they become teenagers.

If anyone agrees or disagrees with my philosophy I'd love to hear from you. I'm particularly interested in coaches and parents thoughts regarding the pros and cons of children's leagues in comparison to skills development centres. Why can't they exist happily together? Being diplomatic, perhaps there are lessons they could learn from each other for the greater good?

You can follow me or comment on this blog @CoachDaveLKFC on twitter or please leave a comment here. I'll always reply to feedback, so long as it's not abusive. Thank you for reading!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Can Football Learn From Soccer? By Dave Homer, Little Kickers Franchisee and Coach - @CoachDave

Can Football Learn From Soccer?  By Dave Homer, Little Kickers Franchisee and Coach - @CoachDave

This blog entry is very much a personal outlook based on my opinions and personal experiences rather than facts, figures and quotes. If it's the latter you're after then it may be best to click off now.

Seeing as almost a third of this blogs audience consists of our friends from across the pond I thought Independence Day would be a good time to share a few thoughts on the United States and how we may be able to learn from each other to improve football, or soccer if you prefer, at all levels.

Certainly an unusual proposition on the face it. Comparing England who, whilst the passion is certainly there, are the resident under achievers of world football, to America which has several sports above soccer in the pecking order. I should declare, perhaps surprisingly, that I've a personal bias towards America. I've been there many times as a child and adult and it's always my number one vacation destination of choice, time and money permitting of course. There are many reasons why, but the over riding factor is I see it as England but 'with bells on'. Better climate, more to do, more to see. Everything is bigger and often better. And of course America shares our language. So for the culturally lazy like me, that's a big help. But my love of America goes deeper than this. It's not just a case of bigger is better. It isn't always. I love the openness of Americans as much as I dislike the stiff upper lip mentality of my homeland.

In America people say it how it is. They're in touch with themselves emotionally, self analytical and, dare I say, friendlier. I've lost count of the amount of times I've heard English people refer to Americans as “over the top”, “brash” or “loud”. Perhaps they are. But is this really a bad thing? I'd prefer a stranger to greet me with a big high five than an English toothless smile any day. The first time I went there I was taken aback by how friendly everyone was compared to at home. Yes, as I've got older I've realised a smiling waitress may just be after a bigger tip. But so what?

Same with the old confidence/arrogance debate. English tradition dictates that we must go about our business quietly and n a dignified manner. But what does this psyche actually achieve? Sporting-wise, I'd argue, very little. The most successful English sportsmen and women have been, for want of a better word 'show offs'.
As I child of 13 I remember kicking a ball around with my Dad in Central Park, New York. Nothing serious, just a Father and Son having a kick about. I was quite into keepie-uppies at the time, and could probably do around fifty or so. Anyone who knows me will testify I was only ever a very average footballer, so imagine my bewilderment when I suddenly noticed  a small crowd had gathered, watching in awe as I practised keeping the ball in the air. Hollering and whooping as only American do. Yes, they were watching me! A kid who couldn't even get in his school team. The confidence boost stayed with me for months. Sadly I couldn't help thinking a similar act of 'showing off' in England would have resulted, at best, in being ignored and at worst, being called names or even beaten up if you were in the wrong place!

That’s a very personal anecdote, but one which demonstrates the difference between the English and American psyche. Is it a coincidence the majority of ground-breaking research and practice in psychology originates Stateside? We're all amateur psychologists these days but It seems every book or link I open on the subject is written by Americans. I'd boldly suggest this is down to advanced emotional intelligence. A sweeping generalisation maybe, but I speak as I find.

So rather than looking down our noses and seeing them as being overbearing, maybe we could actually learn a lot from them. I'm not suggesting America is without it's own problems, but how would they have dealt with a George Best, Alex Higgins, Gazza or Frank Bruno? Issues of the mind are not seen as being weak or the poor relation of physical mental health in America.

50% of the FA's own superb four corners model consists of social and psychological development. In reality, how much are these factors concentrated on in comparison to technique and physical aspects?  I coach 2 - 8 year olds and I can, hand on heart, say every corner is 25% each. Those coaching older ages up to the pro game, can you honestly claim the same?

I'm far from an expert on US sports and am happy to be corrected and educated here. But from what I know of it, I believe their Grid Iron draft system is something we can learn from. I doubt it's flawless. Nothing is. But the idea in principal of weaker teams having first pick on up and coming talent is one I like. Yes, it doesn't translate to the English game as we have no College game system as they do. But what if we did?  What if we had twenty regional FA run Saint Georges Parks and our clubs didn't have any academies?  In fact what if pro clubs couldn't sign players until they were 18? If we had a standard, universal way of educating the most promising talent?  Not just footballing education, but all round education. Similar to the US scholarship model  perhaps? We'd end up with more home grown talent, and fairer, less money-driven leagues at all levels. As far as I know, a different side wins the Super Bowl pretty much each year. Same with the NBA. Imagine an England where a Nottingham Forest, Leeds United, Aston Villa or Derby County could be the best team in the land again? A league where everyone had hope, and not expectation based on wealth alone.

America is, of course, not perfect either. The whole 'Franchising of clubs' idea sits very uncomfortably. We've flirted with it in England with the MK Dons/Wimbledon situation, but as a whole it just wouldn't be tolerated. I hope not anyway. Uprooting institutions, changing their names and moving them round the country. Erm, no thanks.

One major advantage English sport has over American is our tradition and nostalgia, which takes time to develop. This is something which could be learned from us. It is, however, difficult for America logistically. The sheer size of the country all but eliminates the possibility of the type of away support culture which is so fervent in England. And, in turn, this lends it's self to television and, more menacingly, television money. The money is there to stay. But so should be the clubs and their names. Only time will build the kind of allegiances and “way-of-life” bonds the English share with their beloved teams.

There's always a lot of talk about Europe and our country being part of Europe politically - now more than ever. In my mind, we may be twenty odd miles away physically, but mentally we're on a different planet. Socially, constitutionally, culturally, the list goes on and on, we are much closer to America, even if it is several thousand miles away. Maybe rather than chasing after Spanish ideology or whoever's the latest European flavour of the month, we should look to America a little more. Technical and physical attributes can only take us so far. Without social and psychological development they're almost worthless. We shouldn't lose sight of this.

By taking the best and discarding the worst, together Great Britain and America could make one hell of a country. But history dictates otherwise, and what will be will be.

Thanks for reading. I know this one’s gone on a bit, so thanks for sticking with me. My knowledge is far from bullet proof here. I'm more than happy to be corrected. If you see fit please leave a comment or you can tweet or follow me on @CoachDave_

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Euro 2012

Euro 2012 is well underway, and it has followed a similar pattern to recent years with the favourites making their way to the knock out stages.  With the greatest respect to our friends in Ireland, did you really see Robbie Keane holding up the Euro 2012 trophy? The only cup he will be lifting will probably contain a famous black and white Irish drink!

At the time of writing, England have just qualified for the quarter finals – and Rooney’s reappearance has yielded a resounding result – a comment that should be avoided by the England manager Roy Hodgson.  There is a feeling of renewed hope and interest around the English campaign.

Personally, I believe a lot of the failures of teams, especially England’s, are down to the monumental pressure applied by the media and the high expectations of a passionate nation. Players perform at their best when they are relaxed – OK, yes of course they have their own personal pressure to perform to levels they know they can achieve, however this is a pressure that they are in control of.

Take Holland, for example, a team sheet that is made up of superstars with the likes of Robben and Van Der Vaart and Premiership top goalscorer Robin Van Persie. In all honesty, I thought they were going to win it, or at least have a very good chance at lifting the trophy. However, with talk of unrest within the camp and players claiming that external pressures created a false and stressful atmosphere, they did not seem able to play the fast ,free-flowing football that we have all enjoyed watching from previous Dutch sides.

The Spanish side have an unbelievable amount of pressure to perform to the highest standards, not only as the current holders of the Euro title, but entering the tournament as the current World Cup champions. Although Spain have progressed through to the knock-out stages, they have not set the tournament alight as we might have expected – and feared!

Now sometimes  on reading these blogs you may notice that I try to crowbar in a link to what we do at Little Kickers. Given the subject matter, on this occasion it should be seamless...are you ready?
Managers are starting to realise that players perform best in a (as much as they can achieve) pressure-free environment, had they have just visited we could have told them that 10 years ago!  Smooth link right?

Little Kickers prides itself in creating a pressure-free environment jam packed full of energetic and imagination-provoking games. We have always said that we were not created to breed professional Footballers; however we accept it is a certainly a by-product that we vastly improve the ability of every child we teach. We do wonder how long it will be before our national team is full of ex-Little Kickers. 
Without wanting to give away all my secrets to my blogging style I will now attempt to lead you seamlessly back into the original topic.

Sorry, what did you say? Euro 2012?  Well, now you mentioned it...

I am hoping for an explosive conclusion to this year’s tournament. Hopefully, there will be some exciting viewing over the coming two weeks. Hopefully, too,  the matches will be sufficiently entertaining that the cameramen don’t feel the need to scour the crowd for female eye-candy to keep the viewers interested!
Can Hodgson lead England to Euro glory? Can Germany make their normal route to the final? Can Rooney have a headline without the need for another hair-larious pun?!


Thursday, 10 May 2012

What does it take to become a sporting hero?

What does it take to become a sporting hero?
By Christine Stanschus – CEO Little Kickers, based in Toronto, Canada

My husband, Frank, and I were fortunate to be able to attend a fundraising event in Toronto last week, which was organized by the CAN Fund – Canadian Athletes Now.  I have to admit that until I went along to the event, I had little understanding about the lives of athletes who are preparing for the Olympics, and their motivations.

We had the opportunity to see presentations by, and to meet, a number of ex-Olympic medal winners and to hear their stories around their participation in sport.

I had always assumed that athletes who achieve Olympic performance levels are probably born as naturally superior physical beings to the rest of us, and that whilst a certain amount of effort is bound to be involved, they are ultimately “made that way”.  It’s possible for the chosen few to become Olympians, but not for most “ordinary” people.  I assumed it would be obvious from the first time these talented athletes picked up a hockey stick / kicked a football etc, that their gift would shine through and they would be earmarked as a future Olympian and would be set onto a training conveyor belt which would propel them effortlessly to the Olympic Games. 

Whilst many of the athletes who spoke at the event described the buzz they got from competing in their chosen sport right from day one, I was amazed at the way they described their ongoing involvement.   The effort involved in forcing themselves to train when they really didn’t feel like it, the physical discomfort which often bordered on pain, the “down” moments, when they felt they were underachieving.  There were, however, certain characteristics the athletes shared, and messages which were repeated over and over again throughout the presentations and conversations.  The first being the overwhelming sense of pride they feel in representing their country.  Also, the respect and admiration they felt for their teammates and their determination to do their best for “the team”, the dedication and hours of training required in order to achieve their dreams….  Many of them had stories of injuries, which should have resulted in an end to their Olympic careers – serious joint injuries, serious accidents incurred while training etc.  They all managed to overcome these, and to go on to achieve greatness.

The other thing they all had in common was the huge support they had received from their families.  From instilling an early passion for their sport and a drive to do their best, to more mundane things like getting up early to drive them to practice and being a constant source of encouragement when the going got tough.  They were unanimous in their views that without the support of their family they would never have achieved their Olympic goals. 

So whilst physical attributes obviously contribute to the make-up of great athletes, the support of a strong family is equally as important.   So the next time your Little Kicker wakes you up at 7am on a Saturday morning, asking you to take them to football class, remember that all 11 spaces on the 2024 Olympic football squad have yet to be filled…!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Have I gone mad?

I do think it is about time Santa provided a service whereby his elves came round about 3 days after Christmas and helped tidy up! Our house has just about recovered from the festivities that Christmas brought with it, and as we trundle round the house cleaning up the last bits of wrapping, we begin to see what appears to be a floor, which we haven’t seen for some time! We hope Santa was kind to you and you received lots of nice gifts. Santa, thought he would play a trick on me, now don’t get me wrong – I love socks, but, when eight pairs of socks are wrapped individually in varying shapes you have to start questioning his humour, that crafty little Santa!

I hope you enjoyed your nice break. 2012 looks like it is going to be a good year, the London Olympics, the Euros and of course, the highlight of your year, it is the Little Kickers 10th birthday! We have planned some great little events to celebrate, and we hope you will be involved too.

My prediction for 2012 - England to win the Euros. Yes, you heard me correctly, do not adjust your sets, and not a touch of the naughty juice crossed my lips over Christmas either. Call me an optimist, but there is a method to my madness! Rooney is unavailable; he has always been labelled the glory boy for our England side, and the player who makes us tick. With Rooney being unavailable I am expecting there to be less expectation and not the usual enormous bandwagon that ‘this is our year’ ( I do realise that I am claiming the exact sentiment...but for a different reason!) I think this will have an enormous effect on the team, there is a pressure on the England squad drive

n by the media and our own optimistic minds, with no pressure, and the players can relax and play their normal game. England have some amazing talent, with a good balance of older more experience heads, with the young vigour of players like Ashley Young and Rooney.

The England manager, Fabio Capello, has got us playing some good attacking football, and with the England squad being blessed with some of the best defenders in the world, it gives us a really good opportunity to break our trophy-less drought of over 40 years!

What do you think?

If all else fails, we will just have to wait another 4 or 5 years, by then some of our original Little Kickers (who are not so Little now) can start breaking into the team...
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