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Youngest ever Dons squad heading to Europe

June 12, 2019 5:13 pm Author: AFC Media Team
Youngest ever Dons squad heading to Europe

Dons 2010 team will take part in the prestigious Robin van Persie International Tournament


This weekend (June 15 & 16), Aberdeen Football Club will send its youngest ever team abroad for one of Europe’s most prestigious youth competitions.

Our 2010s will be competing in the Robin van Persie International Tournament in Maassluis, located in the western Netherlands.

The Dons’ eight and nine year olds will face Belgium sides Genk and Anderlecht, Dutch outfits Excelsior and PSV Eindhoven as well as English giants Manchester City in Group B of this year’s RVP competition.

Van Persie, the Netherlands’ all-time top goalscorer, will be at the event throughout the weekend to offer encouragement to the youngsters from some of the World’s top clubs.

We caught up with Gavin Levey, Head of Academy Coaching, who has just returned from the continent with another of the Dons’ young teams.

“The majority of the Youth Academy teams have already been away this year. Every team will go away at some point, at least once. We achieved that aim last year and this season, the volume has increased. This is mainly because of the way we have performed and that has generated more invites.

“There has to be a balance as we cannot accept all the invitations we get, although we have accepted four invitations for the 2008s as every tournament has been to a very high standard. These have included the Manchester City Cup and two top level academy tournaments in the Netherlands.

“The better we do, and the better account of ourselves that we give on and off the pitch, the more opportunities that arise.

“Last weekend we had two teams away at two separate tournaments. The U16s were in Utrecht playing in what is called the OSM’75 Tournament. It was an eight-team invitational league, with the two top teams playing off for the trophy. Then our U12s were at the Jorrit Hendrix prestigious invitational tournament at a place called Panningen which is close to the Dutch / German border.

“They are important experiences for them all. You want the players to test themselves against the different styles of play, but the tournament formats are also massively important.

“At the recent Manchester City tournament, the host club came out and said. ‘We want winners and losers, we want tears and joy as well’.

“City also took the unusual step of giving every team a massive drum! They said everywhere you go in football nowadays, you tell parents to stand on the sidelines and be quiet. We want you to make a noise.

“And that is the similar message we want. It is meant to be entertainment, so let’s have entertainment!

“I was at the 2004 tournament last weekend and the Aberdeen FC parents are the ones who created the best atmosphere. It’s important they know the boundaries, so there is a level of respect, but to have them singing Aberdeen songs and encouraging the players really helps add to the environment the players are playing in. They immerse themselves in the local area and make lots of friends and are a credit to the club. The vast majority are Aberdeen fans at the end of the day.

“They brought something to the event that it did not have due to the poor weather on day one. Players, coaches and parents – we are all representing AFC and are in it together.

“Everyone has a part to play.”

“I presented at Hampden Park recently about how sometimes we are encouraged to hide behind winning. As a nation, we have hidden for too long, we often claim winning is not important and it is all about development. But our belief is that you can develop young players, whilst winning and losing in competition.

“We want kids to learn to win, but also learn how to act in defeat and recognise what it takes to improve the next time.

“For example, our U12 were 1-0 up against Ajax last weekend with four minutes to play. We lose the game 2-1 and as a group we can learn that we should aim to manage the game better and improve decision making when in tournament football.

“However, we have had some performances which youngsters and their families will never forget against some of the biggest academies in Europe. It’s important we enjoy these moments too.

“Being an academy player here is tough.

“First you have to make it into a squad at Aberdeen. You have to be good enough to sign for Aberdeen. Then not everyone gets selected to go to a tournament. You have to do well enough to get picked to travel and then when you do get there, you have to be doing well enough to play.

“Everything has to be earned.

“We are not just sending youngsters abroad for the sake of it. Nothing is a given.

“And that is the type of culture we want to try and have.

“We are a little bit different to what is the norm nowadays.”

“We have had an U10s team go abroad before, we went to Holland a number of years ago, and that was an excellent trip at the time. Because of the way the Scottish system has moved, this is effectively a U9s team – although in Scotland it is called U10s – so it is our 2010 born players that will be representing the club at one of the most prestigious competitions that exists in academy football.

“It is Robin van Persie’s own event. For us to get invited along with the likes of Paris St Germain and Manchester City is massive for us, because there are only 12 teams competing at our age level.

“Robin van Persie will be there as host. He wants to focus on children of that age so that they can express themselves and enjoy themselves in what he and the Dutch talk about as being a golden age for player development.

“It is something he is passionate about himself.

“When we go to a tournament now, there are often various people watching our games who want to come up and speak after the game and maybe invite us to their tournament.

“We have to also look at it as building a brand that says we can compete on the field with the top teams and also be good ambassadors for the club off the field and behave in the right manner.

“We have to keep building our reputation and the stronger the reputation is, the more opportunities will present themselves.

“We also fully understand that it takes years to build a reputation but one mistake or one error, not acting in the right way just once, you can ruin it in a moment.”

“We recognise this is a very young age group, some of whom will not have been abroad before.

“All the staff that go away do a very good job. You have to be very professional.

“We have involved Richard Taylor, our Safeguarding Officer, to make sure we are covering absolutely every base we can and have the very best standards.

“Liam McGarry has done a wonderful job with this age group.

“He was brought in to be our full time Pre-Academy Coach and looks after the pre-academy players. He prepares them for academy football. These are players who then become part of our U10s.

“The way Liam and the coaches set high standards means I have no worries at all about taking this group away at the weekend.

“For me personally, I am going from one end of the spectrum, with last week being with the top end of the Academy, the oldest players, and now I will be with the lowest end of the academy whilst also working to help improve our staff.

“Every trip challenges you in different ways, but it is all good!

“It is also an exhausting weekend but a great experience for the players, their parents and all the staff.”

Good luck to our young Dons this weekend! You can keen an eye on their progress by following @AberdeenFCYouth



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