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INTERVIEW: Fitness coach Raymond Verheijen on why Chelsea are better prepared than Manchester United or Arsenal

The Offside Rule

Words from Jamie Thomas.

Over the past couple of years, Raymond Verheijen has become one of the most outspoken and talked about fitness coaches in the football world. Verheijen has worked with some of the world’s top clubs and coaches and hasn’t pulled any punches when discussing the failings of certain Premier League clubs. He spoke in-depth to us about the importance of pre-season.

Seems an obvious place to start, but just how important is it for clubs both at the top and the bottom of the leagues to get it right in pre-season?

What is important for a coach in pre-season is that he has his priorities right and that he has an understanding of what objective is most important. The most important objective in pre-season is to develop your time so that your players can develop an understanding amongst themselves, to learn to communicate verbally and non-verbally.


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FEATURE: Martin Tyler on the new season, FIFA 16, ‘that’ Aguero goal and much more…

The Offside Rule

Martin Tyler is the voice of football commentary and one of the few people who has been part of Sky Sports since the very beginning. About to embark on another new season of commentary, he spoke to us about the new campaign, new players, the goal everybody remembers and a whole lot more.

On his coaching role at Hampton & Richmond. I’ve been coaching at three different clubs in the last 10 years, I help out a manager I know and we’ve developed a good partnership. It fits in with work as it’s football related and I usually work Sundays, so I have Saturday’s free.

It’s a return to the level I played at and grew up watching because I supported Woking, I still do, people ask how I manage it but everybody in non-league football has another job, it just so happens that people know what my other job…

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The next big thing: Tyler Roberts is Wales’ rising star

The Offside Rule

By Jamie Thomas.

“I think the biggest compliment I could give him is that you wouldn’t have known that he was so young. He fit straight in and is a very talented lad.”

Those were the words of captain Ashley Williams to describe West Brom’s rising star Tyler Roberts following Wales’ unforgettable 1-0 win over Belgium at the Cardiff City Stadium.

My only live glimpse of the 16-year-old prospect’s talents came on a cold night in Bangor, North Wales, late last year when Osian Roberts’ Wales Under-16s got their teeth stuck into what would be their first outright victorious Victory Shield Campaign since the 1948/49 season; beating England 1-0 in their first game of the tournament.

It was obvious almost immediately that this guy was something special. The whole team played well; a real embodiment at times of the ‘Welsh Way’ of playing the game that Gary Speed, Chris Coleman…

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Apple Watch: Some Musings

Reflections On Glass


By Andrew McStay

I’ve left this blog for far too long so time for an update of sorts. Since I started this blog I’ve got though a lot of wearables and now have a shelf’s worth of bits, bobs, trackers, wellbeing helpers, EEG units and wearable computers (not least Google Glass). Of all the wearables I’ve kept using, I like Spire’s respiration wearable. This is a pebble-like object that clasps into trouser hips or bra straps tracks breathing so to assess whether people are feeling calm, tense or focused. While breathing, inhaling and exhaling may not seem an especially subtle measure, the results are actually quite accurate (verified by me).

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The unit itself gives prompts when to take a break and when to collect one’s thoughts and get things in perspective. For people who spend a lot of time with computers this can be quite useful. Although Glass hasn’t had…

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A fire in my heart for you

Supporters Not Customers

There was a time I thought I would probably never go to Cardiff City Stadium again. There was a time I thought that Wales would never qualify for a major tournament in my lifetime. After Gary Speed’s death, there was a time I wondered if I could ever enjoy supporting the national side again. There was a time. On a rain soaked Friday night in Cardiff, the greatest Welsh side in living memory changed everything you thought you knew about football in our small but proud country.

Wales are the team who are capable of a few good results, but will always let you down in the end. We’re the team who constantly put ourselves in good positions, before throwing things away in the most unlikely or heartbreaking way possible. Not any more. Not this team.

In my time following Wales before this campaign, we have seriously threatened to qualify…

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Wales v Belgium: Roberts ready to take Euro 2016 rivals down

The Offside Rule

By Jamie Thomas.

Wales’ assistant manager Osian Roberts admits Belgium are in their best ever form – but he still believes they can exploit any weaknesses.

Chris Coleman’s No2 is confident ahead of Friday’s top-of-the-table Group B clash after doing his homework on the Red Devils with a trip to Paris on Sunday to witness the Marouane Fellaini-inspired 4-3 victory.

While Roberts was full of praise for the newly-crowned second best team in the world – who have risen nine places from 11th to their highest ever position in the Fifa rankings – he insists Wales are capable of causing an upset after November’s shut-out.

He said: “Nothing they did against France surprised us; they’ve been playing that way for a while but I think what you saw was that they’re in a rich run of form at the moment. That’s the best I’ve seen them play for a while.

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Wales boss Coleman: Bale won’t quit Real Madrid for Manchester United

The Offside Rule

By Jamie Thomas.

Chris Coleman has backed Gareth Bale to snub a return to the English Premier League in favour of remaining at Real Madrid this summer.

The Welsh superstar has been criticised for his form this season and linked with a move back to England after finishing the season empty-handed. Manchester United are believed to be the favourites for his signature and it was reported this month they could land him as part of a swap deal with apparent want-away keeper David De Gea.

Speculation surrounding Bale’s future has only intensified after the sacking of manager Carlo Ancelotti but the former Tottenham forward seemed to rubbish such suggestions when he tweeted he was looking forward to the new La Liga season earlier in the week.

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Wales v Belgium: Chris Coleman’s men can take the Euro 2016 heat

The Offside Rule

By Jamie Thomas.

Wales boss Chris Coleman admits they are feeling the pressure – but insists he wouldn’t have it any other way ahead of next month’s Euro 2016 qualifier with Belgium.

His men are currently second in Group B, trailing Marc Wilmots’s side only on goal difference at the halfway stage of the campaign, and are determined to maintain their undefeated run on 12 June at Cardiff City stadium.

But speaking as he named his squad for the top-of-the-table clash, Coleman revealed Wales are relishing the big games after keeping the likes of Chelsea star Eden Hazard, Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke and Kevin De Bruyne of Wolfsburg at bay in November’s 0-0 draw in Brussels.

Coleman said: “There’s a reason for us being in this position: we’ve played good teams before and held our own. If we want to reach what we want to achieve, then we’re going to have to live…

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‘The games are just getting bigger and bigger’ says Chris Coleman

Having reached the halfway stage in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, Chris Coleman has said his side are enjoying the pressure that is on his Wales side as they go into another crunch clash, this time against Belgium, looking for all three points to keep their undefeated streak alive.

With five games played in the campaign so far, Wales and Belgium sit at the top of the group with Marc Wilmots’ side only ahead of Wales on goal difference. The two sides played out a 0-0 draw in November, a great defensive display from Wales keeping the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne at bay out in Brussells.

Injury concerns
James Collins and Ben Davies have been ruled out of this clash through injury, but Wales welcome back James Chester, Paul Dummett and Adam Matthews to the squad; Coleman was adamant that his side would cope without his defensive absentees:

‘It’s a real positive to have these guys back, on the back of the Israel camp, which was a great performance that got us the three points, it’s nice to be able to bring back players of that calibre.

‘Difficult for James (Chester) after the difficulty of relegation with Hull but equally he has a chance now to end his season on a high with us.

‘Paul Dummett has done really well when he’s been with us and Adam Matthews has experience with us anyway so to have all three back is a huge positive.’

One of Wales’ biggest strengths in the group so far has been their tactical adaptability, using a number of different systems in their games; some in the media have voiced concerns that perhaps missing key defenders takes away the ability to switch to using three centre backs so easily; Coleman acknowledged how key Collins and Davies have been to the set-up in recent games:

‘The formation in Israel important and Ben and James were key to that performance, enabling us to play with a back three, so it is a blow to lose them.

‘But we’ve been here before, we’ve seen so many times that it is rarely the same squad twice, so whilst we are obviously disappointed to lose both players we just have to deal with it and get on with it.

‘You don’t want to disrupt a winning team with injuries but in international football it is inevitable so there isn’t much we can do about that unfortunately.’

50 for Bale
Never has a Wales men’s international reached the 100 caps milestone for one reason or another but in recent years there has been great emphasis from the Wales hierarchy to encourage players to turn up to squads and enable them to reach that milestone. Ashley Williams got his 50th cap in the Israel game, but against Belgium it will be Bale’s turn.

Naturally, Coleman was full of praise for his Galactico:

‘It’s not just that he’s got 50 caps, it’s that on his way to earning most of them his performances have been absolutely outstanding, particularly in recent years.

‘I think he’s a credit to himself, you see his reaction in the games to when we’re doing well and it’s obvious how much it means to him-he’s got 50 now, he can easily get another 50.

‘A lot of our players have got the capacity to reach the 100 mark, they’re good enough, they’re young enough and we really want as many of them as possible to reach that milestone and credit to them, they’ve just got to keep on doing what they’ve been doing and they’ll get there.’

It seems a feature of Wales press conferences now that Gareth Bale’s Real Madrid future is a topic of conversation; this squad announcement was no exception, especially in the wake of Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking:

‘Carlo and Paul were brilliant, it’s a shame for Carlo, I think he’s a great manager. It was a tough season for Madrid, and Gareth is the most expensive player in the world so of course he is going to attract attention.’

‘Its not just him that is having a tough time, Ronaldo, Isco, Benzema, they’re all struggling but everyone wants to focus on Gareth, but he’s a man, he’ll come through it he’s never let us down in any case.’

With rumours circulating of a move away from Madrid for Bale, Coleman refused to be drawn too deep into discussion about it but did comment briefly:

‘Why would you want to leave Real Madrid? He’s worked hard enough to get there. I don’t think he’ll leave, I don’t think he wants to but if he does then there’ll be a couple of clubs who want him and can afford him.

‘I know what the Spanish league is like and people asked me if I’d be worried about him going there or if it makes things more difficult for me but it doesn’t because the tempo is different over there and as a result I think Bale is in better shape than the premier league players, so from that perspective I’d like him to stay where he is.’

Fatigue concerns?
With some players in the squad playing in the championship, they won’t have played competitive football for a few weeks come June 12th but Coleman brushed away any potential fitness concerns by saying he will be making no excuses for his players:

‘’We’ve known this game has been coming for some time, hence why we played Holland in a friendly this time last year to prepare ourselves physically for playing in the summer.

‘Our objective is to be playing tournament football which will mean playing in the summer so that experience against holland was very beneficial, despite the fact that we lost.

‘The players have all had fitness programmes so that when they come here to prepare for two weeks we don’t spend the first week getting everyone into shape. When they get here it will mostly be tactical work. We can’t play against Belgium not being 100% fit! Just because the game is in June there can be no excuses. You get enough holidays when you retire.’

Young blood
Ever since Harry Wilson’s call-up and first cap against Belgium back in 2013, there has been an expectation from fans to see more youngsters getting call ups. West Brom and Wales youth prospect Tyler Roberts was expected to be in the squad this time but missed out.

He, and others, will be involved in preparations for the game though:

‘We’ve got three or four youngsters joining us in the first week so they can see what it’s all about. It helps us in terms of our training, because there’s obviously more players there which is better for everyone.

‘I quite like doing that to give some of the lads a taste of what could be around the corner for them if they work hard and younger players always add a tempo to the training because of he heir enthusiasm.’

‘Ideally they won’t be involved in the second week of preparations unless anything goes wrong but we need to look after these players and make sure they’re ready to step up – the next three or four years are huge for them; they haven’t made it yet but we need to help them as much as possible.’

Wales’ match with Belgium takes place on the 12th of June at the Cardiff City stadium – both sides are undefeated and there will be a sell-out crowd there to watch the action unfold. You can watch it on Sky Sports 5 on the night but we will have more of the news surrounding the Wales set-up as soon as we get it and a preview piece the day before the game. Let us know what you think of Wales’ chances in this one!

Wales squad
Goalkeepers: Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Fon Williams (Tranmere),Ward (Liverpool)

Defenders: Williams (Swansea City – captain), Chester (Hull City), Gunter (Reading), Taylor (Swansea City), Dummett (Newcastle), Matthews (Celtic), Richards (Swansea City), Henley (Blackburn Rovers)

Midfielders: Allen (Liverpool), Ledley (Crystal Palace), Ramsey (Arsenal), King (Leicester City), Vaughan (Nottingham Forest), MacDonald (Bournemouth), Cotterill (Birmingham City)

Forwards: Robson-Kanu (Reading), Lawrence (Leicester City), Bale (Real Madrid), Church (Charlton Athletic), Vokes (Burnley).

Five Things We Learned: Steven Gerrard bids Liverpool goodbye while relegation battle goes down to wire

The Offside Rule

Jamie Thomas takes a look at the talking points in this weekend’s Premier League . . .

1. Gerrard recognition unprecedented

The one thing that sticks when looking at Steven Gerrard’s impending departure from Liverpool is the level of adulation he’s received as a result. You could mistake Gerrard’s departure for a retirement when in fact he has a couple of years left over in the United States.

We aren’t saying for a second that he isn’t a Premier League great – he absolutely is – but you have to wonder if this attention has done Liverpool any favours.

Gerrard’s departure was announced at the turn of the year, and it’s possible the importance of the timing has been understated.

When Liverpool went on their remarkable run of form, the announcement appeared to have helped the side’s confidence.

However, when results started turning the other way, it could have had…

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