The nations Futsal future is bright
Tony Elliott is the most experienced Futsal goalkeeper coach in the UK and his passion for the sport is unrivalled. CFC were fortunate enough to bring Tony on board as club ambassador in late 2012 and Tony has been instrumental in helping the club grow as quickly as it has. Our media officer was able to catch up with Tony and ask him a few Futsal related questions.
CFC: Could you describe your career so far and your path into Futsal coaching
TE: I started playing in goal by accident! It was a Saturday morning, the doorbell rang, “Can you play in goal for us this morning because the regular goalkeeper is ill” claimed a young seven year old Stanville School footballer. Well I duly obliged and the rest as they say is history. By the time I was eight I was playing for the Castle Vale Boys League team, the 3C’s who are based in Chelmsley Wood, Birmingham. After four trophy laden years I was eventually spotted by Birmingham City, my boyhood favourites, for whom I signed schoolboy forms in 1983. I was then soon to be selected as one of the first intake at the FA/GM National School of Excellence based at Lilleshall National Sports Centre, at the age of 14. I spent the best part of two years based in Shropshire where I was lucky enough to represent England at schoolboy, Under 15, Under 16 and Under 17 Level, playing at Wembley Stadium on three occasions. Upon graduating from Lilleshall, I returned home to continue my football education with Birmingham City, signing pro forms on my seventeenth birthday. During a career that lasted 13 years I went on to playin over 250 games for Birmingham City, Hereford United, Huddersfield Town, Carlisle United, Cardiff City and Scarborough, where my career was cut short at the age of 29 by a back injury. Upon retiring from the playing side of football, I went straight into coaching when I joined Workington Reds as assistant manager/keeper coach. Since then I have also worked for the Lancashire FA as their keeper coach before taking up the role of Head of Goalkeeping at Carlisle United, coaching the goalkeepers from the first team down to Under 9’s in their Centre Of Excellence. I now spend the majority of my week concentrating on the development of many goalkeepers at all levels of the game. I have a role within the Manchester City Football Club Academy as goalkeeping coach and scout working regularly with the goalkeepers at a goalkeeping satellite centre in Kendal that was set up two years ago. Previous to this I also worked as a member of the goalkeeping staff at the Liverpool FC Academy and the clubs Community Programme for 6 years where I coached in many areas of Europe as a lead goalkeeper coach. As you know I am the goalkeeper coach for the England Futsal Team and have been since January 2008. I have been to the World Cup Qualifiers in Hungary (March 2008) and Latvia (2011), with the team to work with and assess the goalkeepers as well as Eurpean Championship Qualifiers in Ireland (2010), Macedonia (2011), Lithuania (2013) and Turkey (2013). I have also been present with the squad when visiting the likes of Cyprus, France, Norway, Malta and Libya for friendly internationals. Some interesting friendly tournaments took place in the likes of Caen, France (October 2008) involving France, Macedonia, Holland and England. I was also present when the team took part in another four team tournament, this time at Loughborough University, the teams taking part this time were England, Libya, Lithuania and Republic of Ireland. I have also worked hard at my coach education qualifications and I am a qualified FA Goalkeeping Level 1 & 2 Coach Educator and have tutored many courses for the Cumberland, Manchester, Isle of Man, North Riding and Lancashire County Football Associations
My goalkeeping schools over the years have helped many young goalkeepers gain recognition at district, county and professional club level. Some of the young keepers that have had regular coaching from myself have gone on to sign at pro clubs such as Liverpool, Carlisle United, Oldham Athletic, Preston North End and Burnley as well as many other keepers being asked to trial at clubs other than the ones mentioned.
I also held the position of goalkeeping coach at Darlington FC in the Blue Square Premier when the club won the FA Trophy at Wembley in 2011 beating Mansfield 1-0 after extra time at Wembley Stadium.
I have held the assistant managers position at Newcastle Blue Star, Whitby Town and currently at Workington Reds FC of the Blue Square North. Recently I have also become goalkeeping coach for the England Cerebral Palsy 7-a-sideTeam. My first commitment with the team was in the recent 4-team tournament in Montreal, Canada where the team were beaten in the Final 1-2 by Argentina.
CFC: What has been your Futsal coaching career high?
TE: Tough question to answer, having been part of the staff team for nearly six years now, I have to say that I have been part of and seen some great moments in English Futsal history. Our visit to Libya just before the troubles erupted over there was a highlight as we played the African Champions at the time, twice and with them being ranked around No.25 in the world when we met on court, we werent really expected to get any joy from our two meetings with them. For us to draw 1-1 in the first game was a great result but for us to then beat them 2-1 in the next game was nothing short of astounding and the atmosphere around our camp after that game is something that I will never forget.
The most precious moment though has to be our history making trip to Lithuania back in January of this year where we gained passage to a major tournament qualifying round for the first time ever, when we pre-qualified by beating the hosts of the pre-qualifying tournament Lithuania 4-3 and then the following night Cyprus by a score line of 2-1 to not just qualify but to actually win the group! We were so proud of that achievement out in Lithuania and that is something that the players, staff and small sided committee can now hold onto and cherish as we enter a new and exciting era for the game of Futsal in this country.
CFC: What issues/problems have you faced whilst coaching Futsal?
TE: To be quite honest, I dont feel that I have really had any problems as a Futsal coach. My main issue when I first took the position as the England Futsal Goalkeeping coach was to quickly understand the sport and its differences from the 11-a-side format of the game but most of all how important the role of the goalkeeper was within the sport of Futsal. Once I had been involved for a period of time, I found that I was able to apply my own philosophy and training methods and with a lot of self education and hard work Id like to consider myself adept in the art of Futsal goalkeeper coaching!
CFC: How did you feel hitting the milestone of 50 international games as a goalkeeping coach at the Futsal Euros?
TE: I had the wonderful privilege as a professional goalkeeper of representing my country as a player and that is something that will live with me forever. Representing my country as a coach however, no matter what format of the game it is in, is for me the highest accolade for any individual. To reach the milestone of 50 games filled me with such pride and to reach that milestone at the European Championship Qualifying Tournament held in Turkey earlier this year made it all the more sweeter! England had never reached this point before in a knockout tournament and it was fantastic for the players to experience playing against some of Europes top teams. To share it with all of the staff and players was probably what made it such a momentous occasion for me. What capped it off was when the players and goalkeepers signed two match shirts and presented them to me to keep as a memento of the occasion!
CFC: You have experience in both Futsal and football – what do you feel the blends and contrasts are?
TE: There are aspects of Futsal and Football in terms of the goalkeeping side that can be transferred both ways, what I would say though is that due to the difference in the size of the area that the game is played on, the hard surfaces that the game is played upon, the smaller goal that the goalkeeper defends and the fact that we play with a 30% heavier, smaller ball than normal then this affects the way that the goalkeeper performs their duty and ultimately means that the skill set of a Futsal goalkeeper is different to that of a football goalkeeper and the training program for the development of the Futsal goalkeeper must differ to that of a football goalkeeper.
The Futsal goalkeeper must be able to distribute the ball well with both hands and feet, they have to be able to anticipate the long ball forward so as to intercept the opposition teams counter attacks. They must also be agile, flexible and have a certain amount of gymnastic ability as many saves are made with the feet and dont be surprised if when you are observing a Futsal game, you see the goalkeeper make a save by performing a splits movement! Communication is also vital as the Futsal goalkeeper can see all of the play happening in front of them and they are always in contact with the play due to the size of the court that the game is played on.
The Futsal goalkeeper obviously has to be adept when handling the ball but again due to the speed at which the heavier ball travels, more times than not, the keeper will parry, deflect or actually push the ball away to safe areas so as not to allow the opposition a second bite of the cherry by allowing the ball to rebound in front of goal. Finally, blocking in a number of forms, plays a big part in the goalkeepers work as there are numerous 1v1 situations and also at times overloads where the goalkeeper and a helping defender will attempt to protect their goal when outnumbered by the opposition due to a quick counter attack.
CFC: What is the level of Futsal goalkeeping at in England compared to other parts of the world?
TE: In James Dalton, Curtis Holmes and Brendan Dix, in my opinion, we have the three best goalkeepers that the England Futsal program has ever had. Having now seen many goalkeepers over the last six years at most levels of the game, there arent many opposition goalkeepers that I would prefer in the England team than the lads that we currently have in our squad. Obviously, when you look at the worlds top ranked teams, most of the goalkeepers play the game professionally in countries across the globe so they will have more opportunity to train and play at top level on a more regular basis, hence they will be more advanced in certain aspects of the game than our boys.
That said, the attitude, work ethic and sheer desire to be the best they can be that the three lads possess is a wonderful attribute to have. I for one am proud to be able to work with, help and educate the lads as often as it is possible to get together and as they get better game by game I know that for the foreseeable future the England Futsal teams goalkeeping department is in very safe hands with James, Curtis and Brendan pushing each other to the limits for that coveted No.1 jersey!
CFC: What are your next steps and hopes for your Futsal coaching career?
TE: After spending the best part of six years as the Head Goalkeeping Coach for the England Futsal Team, I have now accumulated a vast amount of Futsal specific knowledge along with the experience of representing my country in World and European Championship qualification rounds.
I have been privileged to visit many, many countries across Europe and Africa, opportunities to work alongside and with some of the best Futsal coaches in the world and of course a wonderful experience when I was able to share sessions and thoughts with the great Brazilian National Futsal Team goalkeeper coach Guaiba!
Within my role as the England Futsal Goalkeeping Coach I am currently now looking at how best to develop the coach education side of goalkeeper coaching for Futsal in this country and my drive is to help coaches begin to develop Futsal specific goalkeepers that in the long run, will help take the England team forward with more success over many, many years. It is evident that we are very short of Futsal goalkeeping specific coaches, therefore it is now of vital importance that we have a structure in place to recruit a vetted and selective group of coach educators who are qualified enough to lead on courses and if we are to follow FA protocol of tutors having a certain level of qualification, be genetically tutor trained and also to have other certification in place to be recognised as tutors then we now have to put in place a strategy for both goalkeepers and coaches alike. Most importantly goalkeepers certainly need to have access to good Futsal goalkeeper coaching as this will help to develop their game added to the experience that they will gain individually by actually playing the game. So with this in mind, proposals for goalkeeping Qualifications at 2 levels have been put forward and it is hoped that after a short consultation period, the first of these courses should go live in the very near future.
Finally, my role now is not just that of a specialist Futsal goalkeeping coach but also that of a coach educator and my aim is to stay involved with the England Mens Senior Futsal Team for as long as possible and most importantly to leave a legacy behind for coaches and goalkeepers of the future to enjoy, flourish and thrive off to enable the England Futsal Team to become a major force in European and World Futsal with the strength of the goalkeeping department being one of its main attributes!!