First international Wolves Cup hosted

Wolves Academy successfully hosted the first-ever international edition of the Wolves Cup at Compton earlier this month.

Well into its tenth year, the annual Wolves Cup covers five age groups across the foundation phase and has seen a whole host of UK-based teams participate over the years.

However, this time, clubs from the United States, Dubai and Ireland were amongst the likes of Wolves, Liverpool and Everton competing in the under-10s international series.

The competition format saw 12 teams split into two groups of six with each team playing five 15-minute seven-a-side games. Position in the group then determined whether a team would play in the Gold, Silver or Bronze Cup semi-finals before moving on to the respective final and third-place play-off of each cup.

The Gold Cup final took centre stage and was the last fixture of the day in front of all teams, as Irish side Crumlin United ran out 1-0 victors over Liverpool to lift the trophy.

U7-U10 foundation phase lead coach, Paul O’Brien, had the task of leading on the logistics and running of the tournament and has explained how the day went, along with discussing why the time was right to go international.

“There’s a lot of planning that goes into these tournaments,” O’Brien said. “You want the day to run smoothly and as best it can and, above all else, let the boys have fun playing football.

“We’re really pleased with how it’s gone. It was very tiring for the staff but we’re happy with it and people have gone home happy – not just players, but spectators as well.

“Domestically, we’ve held the Wolves Cup for a number of years now and we’ve always looked to grow them. We’re always challenging ourselves in terms of what we can do better, but we also don’t want to upscale too quickly and too soon with our tournaments.

“The reason why we went international was to provide a little bit of a different experience for our boys. We all know what the games programme looks like in England, but we’re always trying to search for additional games to add variation to the programme. This supports their learning, develops them in the right way and exposes them to challenges they’re not used to being exposed to.

“The additional teams from different countries will definitely add that and we don’t know anything about them when they come through the door. If you’re hosting a domestic tournament, you know everyone and a little bit about the teams.

“Going into a tournament a little bit blind definitely replicates what we might experience when we go away on tours.”

O’Brien says the feedback he received from the other teams was positive and after hosting the likes of New York Red Bulls, FBSL Arizona and SK Dubai, has already had requests about participation in future Old Gold events.

“They’ve all been really positive and all really enjoyed the day. It’s a long day, but you don’t feel like it’s too long.

“It’s game after game so you’re constantly having matches which is important for the boys. The amount of minutes they’re playing throughout the day is fantastic.

“The Irish teams travelled over in the morning and went home on the same day, so it’s a really successful day for them. The New York Red Bulls team were here for a longer spell and they’ll be playing against other teams as well.

“A lot of them have already asked me when the next one is or could they be invited to something else.

“Maybe we’ll look to upscale it again and do something a bit extra, but the feedback has been good and it’s important we champion that and review what we’ve done before we move onto the next one.”

Above all else, O’Brien has stressed the importance of enjoyment for the youngsters playing in the tournament and creating that connection with the staff.

“That’s of paramount importance for anyone working in the development of young children in any aspect,” O’Brien said on the key takeaways from the day.

“They have to have enjoyment and connection with the staff that are around them before any football has started.

“If they have connection, they enjoy it and they’re engaged, then that’s where the real learning takes place.

“Our players didn’t win everything they wanted to win, but on their journey it’s important they experience a bit of everything and we’ll support them through it.”

Gold Cup winners: Crumlin United

Silver Cup winners: Wolves

Bronze Cup winners: FBSL Arizona

U10 International Wolves Cup participating teams: Wolves, New York Red Bulls, Crumlin United, St Kevins, Everton, SK Dubai, Liverpool, Shelbourne, FBSL Arizona.