The Importance of Small Sided Games by Alan Hudson

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"When I was a small boy I did not know it but by my father arranging many five-a-side matches (small sided games) he was nurturing my ability to play the game. He realized I had exceptional ability, as I always played with kids much older than me, even though I was smaller than the ones of my own age. What these matches gave me was the opportunity to use my skills in tight situations. If you had the opportunity to watch Barcelona play Chelsea in the Champions League, you would have seen fantastic players who were brought up playing in this type of situation. Look at Lionel Messi and his incredible close control, you could only realize was, allowed to be used so to get the best out of a super talent. All of the world's best players over the years have that wonderful close ability, I know you are too young at the moment - but if you watch or video, or ask your parents - about another Argentinian Diego Maradona you will see or find out of what the 'art' of dribbling and 'seeing things quickly' is all about. It is no coincidence that Maradona and Messi were brought up not only in the same environment but 'football thinking' country. I was lucky enough to play against George Best, Pele and Johan Cruyff - all in Maradona and Messi's class - and in each one of those, I saw that they were brought up playing in the backstreets and in those streets you can only play 'small sided' matches.

I played in the MISL (Major Indoor Soccer League) and became very close friends with your coach Chris Bennett and this was a brilliant way to spend our time whilst breaking away from the 11-a-side stuff in the NASL (North American Soccer League) for two reasons, firstly, it kept your mind right, and secondly, it kept us fit, while enjoying the game we were brought up to enjoy. What else the Indoor game (small sided game) does for you, is to keep you 'alert' much more than the bigger sided games, plus most important, you get more touches of the ball. As a player I detested large sided matches in training, whereas I would never miss a five-a-side. I will finish by telling you that one of the greatest players I have ever played with was Jimmy Greenhoff, Leeds United, Stoke City and Manchester United, and we built up a wonderful playing 'understanding' in the gymnasium playing 5-a-sides.

Chris has asked me to write this piece because, like him, we believe in working on young player's inborn talent and there is no better place to get the best out of that ability than ion a 'small sided game). Listen to your coach, and work on your close control because when you get into a very tight situation on the bigger football pitches, the importance of all of your playing in tighter areas will get you out of trouble."

 Alan Hudson
1968-1974 - Chelsea
1974-1976 - Stoke City
1976-1978 - Arsena
1979-1983 - Seattle Sounders
1979-1980 - Cleveland Force (indoor)
1983-1984 - Chelsea
1984-1985 - Stoke City