Young Latics to visit Holland in Summer
Latics youth team will travel to the Netherlands for a two-week excursion at the end of July, thanks to funding secured by academy manager Tony Philliskirk.
The trip will combine cultural visits with the day-to-day work of preparing for the 2014-15 campaign, amid glorious surroundings and startling facilities in the south of the country – perfect for the types of training sessions that are often impractical in this country.
"The feedback we got from the boys from the last trip was amazing,” said under-18s boss Philliskirk, who has combined efforts to secure outside funding for the trip with work preparing for an audit of the club’s academy system in March.
“As coaches, we learned so much about them. We learned who the leaders are and a lot of them came out of their shells. We were able to do real quality work, too.
“Over here, when we came back into training after Christmas it was belting down with rain and freezing cold.
“Over there, the weather is superb and we were doing walk-through sessions which you can’t do in poor conditions.
“A lot of tactical work that is done on the continent we would love to do here. But unless you have an indoor facility, with a full-size pitch, you can’t.”
In the summer of 2012, an Athletic squad featuring current players who now have first-team experience – Danny Gosset, Luke Simpson, Jordan Bove, John Pritchard and Jack Truelove, plus Joe Cooper and Chris Sutherland, who have since left Boundary Park – were partnered with Dutch outfit
VVV Venlo during a two-week stay based at Horst near the German border and the Dutch FA centre of Delden.
That visit was provided by the League Football Education programme, but this time Athletic have sourced funds through the Leonardo Programme, part of the EU’s Lifelong Learning Programme, which is managed in the UK by Ecorys.
Philliskirk is also indebted to David Roe of Stockport-based Navitas Sports, who is Athletic’s project manager, with Training Trips’ Jeroen Gosgens in charge of arranging the fine details.
Venlo are again set to link up with their English counterparts, with academy coach at the Dutch club Roger Bongaerts and Philliskirk swapping roles to run each other’s sessions during the stay.
Two games have already been arranged for the team - against VVV Venlo and Roda JC - with a third to be confirmed.
There is an option to hop over the border to Germany – and aside from the football itself, the cultural visits are again likely to prove to be a brand new experience for Athletic’s teenagers.
“We had an unbelievable trip to a war museum in Horst,” said Philliskirk. “We had a guided tour where they talked about the Holocaust – none of the boys even knew about it.
"We saw some unbelievable footage and I have never heard the lads so quiet in my life. Then for 20 minutes they would firing out questions.”
Two years ago, Athletic’s youngsters lost 1-0 to Vitesse Arnhem but saw off Fortuna Sittard (4-1) and fellow tourists Cheltenham Town (3-2), also drawing against NEC Nijmegen.
Should any players who are not retained by Athletic catch the eye of a coach in the Netherlands in those friendly matches, there is even the possibility of swapping life in Oldham for a new one in the home of ‘total football’. What an eye-opener that could be.