A camping trip with Bielsa

One year ago!

A year can fly – in football and in life. Its May 2016 and I am experiencing my first ever camping trip.

The actual thought of sleeping outside in a tent has never been my idea of fun, but my 4 year old son (Henry) was obsessed with the idea of me and him camping together.

Its around this time (May) each year, that I feel the most selfish towards my family and the time i spend away from them. They go throughout the year accepting that dad is going to be working long days and travelling a lot. I also take my work home with me and never switch off between planning, telephone calls or watching games on tv.

Each May, As the season comes to a close, I get the chance to reflect and also to have a months quality family time. So being a big softie, I found myself laying in a tent somewhere near Blackpool in the north west of England.

Me and Henry in the tent that I bought from Sports Direct and Roxanne with Mason in the luxury glamping tent next to us (Henry was not having the Glamping as a real tent and therefore, off to the shops we went and bought a new tent, sleeping bags, lanterns and snacks).

Around 1am – Henry woke me up as he had a done an “accident” and wet his sleeping bag through. So now, I’m laying in a tent “freezing” with my son in my sleeping bag next to me. I cannot go and wake up Roxanne as i told her to lock herself into the Glamping tent. So I’m stuck for a few hours…….

You are probably wondering, what the hell this has to do with Marcelo Bielsa? well – step forward Mr Jed Davies 

Jed is the co founder of inspire coach education events. At the time, Jed was writing a book on Bielsa and had asked me to write a foreword for the book.


Therefore, this was my perfect moment to read the book. Out came my laptop and I began to read the full book in PDF version.

“Its an excellent book and more than just a book on Bielsa. It also features the ideas of coaches who are related to – or inspired by his philosophy on football”

I managed to finish the book around 4.30am and immediately, set about writing the foreword as an email to myself on my phone.

See below for the foreword…..

“If your interested in how the camping trip ended, well Henry finally woke up around 6am and I encouraged him to knock on the door of the Glamping tent to wake up his mum and brother. We were supposed to spend the rest of the day on the camp site, but no chance – We found a nice local cafe and had a full english breakfast before setting off on the 40 mile journey home – arriving safely by 10am……… never again!”


Jed Davies is a brave man! for he has taken on a task of unraveling the most mystical coach in the history of football.

Marcelo Bielsa has inspired so many coaches. For many, Bielsa is less well known than the coaches he has inspired with his vision of the game. But for students of the game, Bielsa is held with great respect and love for his ideas and inspiration.

Never one to chase media attention, he is completely for the development of his players and teams. This is another unique trait that he is adored for in the coaching world – but also makes it hard to really understand the genius of his ideas due to the lack of interviews he has given on his philosophy.

Therefore, I was intrigued to read Jed’s book.

I have known Jed for the past two years and without doubt he is a student of the game, he has a unique eye for fine details and is obsessed with how he analyses the game in order to seek the latest trends in football. This book offers you the insights of this obsession.


It is a fascinating read with each chapter offering you a new insight into various coaches and how they add their own ideas to that of Bielsa’s style.

As a developing coach, the ideas are something that in many ways are an inspiration to me and I would like to share my own thoughts with you for consideration when coaching our children.

Football is a beautiful game, there is no debate on this, but do the children and players you coach have a beautiful experience? Or are they confused and stifled by too many drills or practices that are trying to recreate the game rather than playing it?

So the questions I am posing “Is training beautiful? Or is it just the game that is beautiful” and therefore do players fall in love with training or just playing the game?

This is a key consideration for anyone looking to become a coach. The players are everything and the experiences you give them must enhance their love and passion for football.

As I grow and develop as a coach, my knowledge of the game has improved without doubt. But, the single most important development I have made is in my knowledge of people and how to manage, develop and inspire them.

The term “There is no I in team” is a saying that we have all heard.

I completely disagree with this quote and believe that this is where the biggest mistakes are made in the development of young players and also the motivation of senior players.

In fact, the quote should read “There are eleven I’s in a team” for I believe wholeheartedly that individual development = team development and both should be developed at the same time.

In fifteen years experience at Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC working with players from u6 through to senior professionals, I have learnt that If you raise the level of each individual (improving their identity and focus as players) then as a result your team will become much stronger.

Therefore, the role of a coach in any sport or discipline is to lead their athletes in one direction: Improvement.

Coaches must take on the role of a life coach to their players and become a strong guide in order to develop their full potential. They should promote “you vs yourself” as a model for development and understand that the game is made much easier by having players who are able to demonstrate 1v1 domination (the ability to outplay opponents in your own unique way).


Each person has his or her own unique personality as a human being. I believe the same applies to each player on a football pitch. The aim for coaches is to help a player develop their football personality “Identity” as they grow through the age groups.

A player who is able to develop a strong identity,  is then able to structure their training and therefore, giving themselves a huge amount of focus.

Combining these things will surely lead to improvement and a greater mindset compared to their peers, it will also allow for the player to audit their personal performance.

To give this idea some clarity I am able to share with you some of my favourite quotes from the top coaches in world football.

The person comes 1st. 99.9% of clubs don’t care enough for the person. Its not about how talented someone is, its how that talent is handled”Cruyff

“Football is a human science” – Mourinho

“Training must not be occupational therapy, it must be focused on improvement. All players have talent – they often dont know which. The coach is the medium to help the players manifest this”LVG 

“The art of 1v1 is now more important than ever, Seek first to understand then to be understood”Ancellotti

 “Look for players you can go on a journey with, Show interest in them as people, not just footballers”Wenger

“Don’t impress me, impress yourself”Klopp

Once a player has this identity, its then a case of decision making within the game in order to problem solve and become successful.

“Therefore, the biggest advice I can offer is that developing players to excel in 1v1 situations and problem solving in 2v1, 1v2 moments is the key to player effectiveness inside the 11v11 game”

“Coaches paint pictures, simpler the better”

Michael Beale

May 2016 – Camping Hell………..

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