V ’12: Football ready for Ricoh test

It’s fair to say that the ambitions of Warwick’s Men’s Football Club have increased greatly since the arrival of Coach James Ellis. The club are hoping for successive promotions into the BUCS Premier league. They’re currently two points off the top in the league with a final game against Loughborough remaining.

Club Captain Lewis Treacy agrees: “In terms of the first team, we’re in a good position at the moment. At the start of the season, we thought we were well equipped to play in this league, although we had just been promoted. The start was a bit shaky; but we’ve pushed on from there, as the results we deserved started to come in line with our performances.”

What makes the team’s competitiveness in a higher division even more impressive was how they’ve coped with a large turnover of players over the summer as many of the squad graduated. “We had to bring half the club’s playing staff in, so we needed a bit of time for the newcomers to gel and settle in, and see which XI they land in as you’re not sure who’s going to play in what position, so that takes a couple of weeks, but overall the freshers have bedded in very well.”

“The second team are doing really well and were in contention to win their league [but a 2-2 draw with Birmingham in the final fixture saw Oxford Brookes steal in and win the league], but I suppose a knock-on effect from the first and second teams doing so well is the third and fourth teams suffered. They’re in a difficult league themselves with a lot of University second teams in there, and the fourth team got promoted last year so they were always going to find it to be a tough league. So there has been a bit of a divergence in the results.”

Injuries in the first and second teams have meant the best players from the third and fourth teams have been pushed up to try and maintain the high level attained by those sides, highlighting the current squad depth.

“If you compare the first team of last year to the one this year, you’ll find that players who were in the third and fourth teams are playing and starting regularly in the first team, which is quite an unusual occurrence. But we have quite a fluid squad and the captains have a meeting on the Monday to discuss who’s doing well in training, which leads to quick progression for some players through the ranks.”

The brutal 7am training sessions on Mondays for the first and second teams, alongside other aspects (fitness, strength and conditioning sessions and nutritional awareness seminars) of the focus club initiative installed by Warwick Sport has added to the greater professionalism in the club over the past couple of years: “Compared to three or four years ago, when it was more of a social thing – and we still try to maintain the social side of things, but if players have to get up early on a Monday, it’s more that kind of mentality shift towards professionalism, which has transformed the squad, making us more efficient in how we play too.”

Earlier in the season, Treacy mentioned a change in style from the more direct game exhibited in last year’s successes to a possession-based one this year. “Last year, we were very direct; we probably didn’t have the players to play the football we would’ve liked to, although it was successful because we won the league. This year we’ve seen a lot of new players come into the squad, and we’ve been able to build a system, where we’re strong at the back, with two holding midfielders, providing a strong defensive block. Then there’s a fluid attack, with two wingers and a support striker behind the main striker.”

“Having players that can take up a variety of positions gives the opposition a massive headache, as they don’t know who to track. Instead of playing the ball long, we’ve been able to pass through midfield. We’ve got some really good wingers who’ve been creating opportunities and getting on the score-sheet, so we’re not just reliant on the striker. The striker’s role has been more to hold up the play and bring in the three – Tom Newman-Sanders has done that job really well, considering he didn’t get into the club until last year and in his first year he didn’t even get into the Economics team! He’s done fantastically and is playing really well.”

As for Treacy himself, there was a switch from attacking midfield to right back at the start of the season: “I guess you could call me Mr. Versatile, like John O’Shea… [laughs] I think I’m probably a right-back at heart and that’s where I’ve found myself playing a lot, but I did play central midfield last year. The coach is quite experimental and I found myself playing on the right-wing occasionally, probably due to my stamina and work-rate.”

Compared to the swamp that was the Rugby pitch of the Butts Arena last year, the technical level of the game should be higher given the new venue of Coventry City’s Ricoh Arena. Naturally, the team are looking forward to the occasion.

“Definitely, you don’t always get to play in such a good arena. I’ve played on a couple – Blackburn’s Ewood Park (I used to play for Blackburn Rovers when I was younger, from 11 to 16. The game at Ewood Park was actually my final game for them) and Preston North End’s ground Deepdale (we played at Preston as my school got to a regional final which we won).”

“I’ve had experience playing on such stages, as will a couple of the other lads, but for some of the team, it’ll be a novel experience, even down to the changing rooms, and the bigger crowd – it just builds itself up as a great spectacle and hopefully we can get a lot of students down. We’ve been to quite a lot of the other Varsity events, like the Ice Hockey, and once you get a crowd going, with good support, everyone’s in their t-shirts, it’s just a great day out and good for the university too.”

“The pitch will be pretty similar as all have to adhere to regulation. It’ll be slightly larger than what we’re used to so fitness levels will be tested. Hopefully all the running we’ve done, the work with the gym staff, it’ll pay dividends. Although BUCS is what we focus on, everyone’s got their eye on a starting spot for Varsity, as it’s the highlight of the year. No decisions have been made about the starting squad yet. Anyone in the second team, looking to push on, still has a massive chance to play for the first team. In training and games, players will be looking to give that little bit extra.”

Treacy himself, a finalist, will be looking to make the game count, with bittersweet memories from last year’s finale: “I remember starting on the bench last year, I was gutted, but I did manage to get onto the pitch. Although those who miss out will be disappointed, they’ll definitely support the team on the day. So, it’ll make interesting viewing in training with a few making some crunching tackles [laughs].”

The club will be looking to avenge last year’s disappointing results, where the second, third and fourth teams all lost against their Coventry counterparts, with the first team only winning on penalties in what was a very scrappy, physical game: “On the day, the whole club will be there to support the other XIs in their games earlier, as the first team game is later in the evening. I think we’ve got to be aiming for four victories, it’s definitely not impossible for that to happen.”

“We’ll also be playing at Cryfield this year, so the good pitches and familiar surroundings will be a bit of an extra advantage.” Last year, the games were played at Earlsdon, giving Coventry the advantage. With the incentive of playing on a Championship-quality pitch and home advantage, let’s hope Treacy and co. make it count.


“**Phil Jones** was a year below me. It’s quite strange because he was never really tipped for any greatness. He was always a good steady player, but you never really thought he’d make it. He actually played right-back when I was playing with him. He was a nice lad and the thing you’d say about Phil is his attitude was exceptional.

He was so committed to becoming a footballer, even though he didn’t have the quality, which he definitely does now – that’s come in time. His mental strength has really gotten him through and people are tipping him to be a future England captain.

Then there’s **Junior Hoilett**. He was a year older than me, and at that age they group some of the players together. He was always a fantastic player. His feet, his shooting, his speed – he just had everything. He was the best player I had probably played with while at Blackburn and now he’s a star in the Premier League.

And there’s also **Frankie Fielding**, who I think is now a regular in the England set-up. He was a bit older than me but we regularly trained. I used to have Tuesdays off school to train with the academy, and Frankie was just such a great lad, he’s definitely the best goalkeeper I’ve ever played with.

So that’s three who’ve gone on to make it so that’s quite an impressive class. You’ll find that with a lot of academies, with so many players coming in and it’s the few that have worked that little bit harder that’ll make it.”


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