Latics’ Head of Youth Tony Philliskirk has described the 12-day tour to Holland a resounding success.
It was not only a football trip – Latics under-18’s played four matches – but one which also encompassed educational and cultural facets.
Philliskirk added that it was also a successful for team bonding, especially for the nine schoolboys who have just joined the club as well as having the use of quality pitches and facilities.
Latics’ Head of Youth made a successful bid to the League Football Education (LFE) who each year provide funding for one club from each of the Football League’s three npower divisions to make the trip.
The LFE secure funding from Europe through the Leonardo Project which encourages interaction between young people through sport.
Latics joined Derby County and Cheltenham Town who were the represented the Championship and League Two respectively for the tour which was operated by the LFE in conjunction with Training Trips.
It was ground breaking for Latics as Philliskirk explained: “This was the first overseas pre-season trip in my 14 years at Latics.
“I have taken groups to Lilleshall for three or four day breaks, but never overseas.”
Latics played four games against Dutch sides Fortuna Sittard (won 4-1), NEC Nijmegen (drew 1-1), Vitesse Arnhem (lost 1-0) and Cheltenham Town (won 3-2) and several were against older under-19 sides.
Philliskirk described the games against the Dutch teams as an education as they were so different to the typical English style.
He explained: "The three games were technical and tactical and our players had never experienced anything like that.
"The Dutch teams work hard to keep the ball and often string together 20/25 passes and the big lesson to our players was to take care of the ball and keep possession.
"They are comfortable on the ball and build up patiently from the back and then pick you off.
"The goalkeepers are all outstanding distribution wise with their feet. The teams played with three in the centre of midfield and the full backs pushed forward.”
Latics were based at Horst near to the German border in the opening week before heading to Delden and the Dutch FA’s National School.
They were given educational tours of Horst, Delden and Amsterdam, including a canal trip, as well as visiting the largest war museum in Holland which the youngsters found fascinating as they learned about the Holocaust.
The Latics’ group also watched the Dutch Charity Shield between Ajax and PSV while they also visited VVV Venlo whose Academy director took two of their training sessions and well as doing a question-and-answer session.
There was also a visit from FC Twente coach Steve McClaren who also did a question and answer while Philliskirk and Centre of Excellence manager Mick Priest attended the under-21 game between FC Twente and Ajax.
Philliskirk was also delighted with the way in which the young players behaved and acted as ambassadors for the club.
He said: “Their behaviour was impeccable and our tour guide Roberto Fernandez, who does these tours all the time, told me our group was the best he had ever worked with.
“The LFE staff spoke about how polite the boys were, the manager of the hotel at Horst did likewise while staff complimented me about how tidy they kept their rooms.”