How Young Soccer Players are Developed in Spain – A British Insight

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Coach Keiran Smith form Glasgow is currently working with AD Alcorcón Under 18 squad in Spain. In this interview with the Rinus Philosophy website, Keiran talks about his own coaching journey, his aspirations and how young soccer players are developed in Spain.

While David Moyes is heading up the transition at Real Sociedad and Ian Cathro is basking himself in the Valencian sunshine, another of the Scottish contingency is progressing with his career in Spain under the radar of the La Liga duo. Nestled on the outskirts of Madrid is the dusty industrial town of Alcorcón. Not the most glamours of places to visit in Spain’ Capital, but a place Kieran Smith calls his current footballing home. Kieran took the plunge a few years ago and is now working with AD Alcorcón in their base Academy level and Juvenil A team (under 18s).


Trading the gloomy fog of Glasgow for the sun of Madrid, Kieran, 29, sadly finished his football career in his late teens through a series of injuries, but coaching was in his blood from an early age. Starting coaching at 14 through work experience at school with the SFA and also at an after schools programme. Kieran has gone on to coach at Fulham, Tottenham Hotspurs, Hearts, and Manchester City throughout a period of 8 years.


Well I went with the Scottish FA to do my level one at 16, but I went to England in my late teens, specifically London, to follow my girlfriend who had been accepted into University. There, I started my level 1 course and within 18 months I had began my UEFA A licence. I was advised to do so by the mentors on the course, being told to go on to my UEFA A within 6 months of finishing my B licence. At that time I felt more comfortable on my B licence because of the nature of my football experiences as a player and coach. With that in mind, I feel I started my A licence a bit too early, and subsequently took a break before my UEFA A licence assessment to gain more experiences. I finally completed my A licence at 26, being the youngest on my course. I think the A licence was a magnificent learning experience as it was a mix of ex pros, both nationally and internationally and none players. So, you got a real mix of opinions and knowledge in the dynamic of the group.


I felt they were good and I learned a great deal off different people, both coaches and players. I was privileged to work with Chris Ramsey, the current QPR manager, at Spurs where I assisted him with the Under 15/16s. This was a massive learning curve for me and I took so much from session structures and how to build the foundations of a team to work towards a common goal.


Well the turning point was when I was offered a job at a professional club in London, but eventually the offer was rescinded. At that point I needed to make some decisions in my life as I felt I had hit a little bit of glass ceiling at 27. I had always been a great admirer of Spanish football and had a strong desire to coach in Spain one day. That spurred me on to make my decision to explore another country. I had set my sights on Spain because of the reasons mentioned, and also that Spain had been a leader in football development and coaching. People tried to talk my away from it, advising other countries, but my heart was set on it.


The structure of the sessions in Spain compared to the UK is very different as the tactical input comes very soon in the player’s career. From the age of about 6-8 they start to look at patterns of playing out from the back, I saw that consistently across 10-15 clubs. A huge thing to add, to the structure of the sessions, is the lack of freedom the players have from a young age, which baffles people due to the nature of the players Spain produces, these skilfully free players.



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