March Update – Developing the Developers and a childhood dream fulfilled

Hi all,

apologies for the lateness of this update but it’s been an extremely hectic month chock full of family commitments, work events and busy weekends. I’m pleased to have successfully negotiated it to be honest. It started with real gusto with me returning to St Georges Park for the second time in as many weeks this time for the Developing the Developers Course. This used to be titled the GTT – Generic Tutor Training course and is the pre-requisite course for anyone considering being a tutor with the FA or who wants to supplement any mentoring / tutoring skills they may have already.

The course has been updated recently and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was half expecting 3 days of tutor led, death by power point with limited interaction between attendees but it was in fact quite the opposite. We hardly sat down over the 3 days constantly engaged on activities which involved questioning techniques, presenting styles and relaying of information to try to cater for all needs of the learners present culminating finally in a 10 minute presentation to the group of a topic of our own choosing.

Those with a teaching background or who have completed something like PTTLS will be familiar with the ideas behind it but nevertheless I found it worthwhile and it is something you will have to do should you wish to tutor in some capacity with the FA. I’ve long had aspirations of doing so and felt that it would complement my mentoring activities.  If you’re interested in finding out more, further details are available here:

Aside from other commitments coaching has been intense as always. One of the things I’m struggling with at the moment is the transfer of practice behaviour in to games. The boys are training well at present in large part to improved focus and all round “coachability”. Practices appear to be stimulating, challenging and the feedback from the boys is good. When it comes to games however everything they have learnt and displayed in training seems to go out of the window and they revert back to type, focusing only on the ball and not on all 4 things (ball, opposition, team mates, space).  They are only 11 years old so they’re still extremely young but in an 80 minute game we’re seeing only 20 minutes of the boys playing to the best of their ability. I’m sure confidence is an issue due to results but I’m struggling to find answers to this conundrum. Any thoughts or opinions welcome!

Lastly one thing I must write about is the fulfilment of a childhood dream.  The weekend before last I took my good lady away for the weekend to Madrid and somehow managed to convince her to accompany me around the Santiago Bernabeu. My second ever football shirt was a second hand early 1980’s Real shirt with Butragueno on the back so for me they have always been my second team. Real

I’ve long wanted to go and to finally wonder around the stadium on the self guided tour was very much a  dream come true. Unfortunately it was the Classico away at Barca on the same day so I didn’t see a game but one day I will be back. The wife also loved the city, the shopping and the tapas so if you’re after a weekend away with your partner. Madrid is highly recommended!

April is also going to be a busy month and I’m keeping everything crossed for news regarding course places. I shall as always keep you posted!

Until next time, keep up the good work!


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February Update 2015 – The FA Coach Mentor Programme

February has almost drawn to a close and even at this early stage in 2015 I’ve found myself with lots to consider!

The stand out event this past month for me was the FA Coach Mentor Conference held at St Georges Park. For those of you that don’t know, the FA Coach Mentor Programme is an investment in grass-roots coaching, offering on the ground support within FA Charter Standard Clubs, providing a process whereby a coach is actively engaged in being guided towards acquiring new knowledge, feedback, ideas or advice by a trained mentor. The aim is to supporting a coaching workforce in their own environment, both in training and in match-day situations and improve the standard of grass roots coaching. This can be achieved in a number of ways.


You can find out more about the programme by following this link.  I currently work for the FA as a Coach Mentor for the Gloucestershire region and although I regularly get together with my colleagues within the South West this was the first opportunity for a national get together. I’ve also not been to St Georges Park so it was also my first opportunity to go and have a look around.  SGP is impressive but I won’t say what’s been said before. The Conference itself however was extremely worthwhile. After speaking to several other Mentors it was re-assuring to now that regardless of region we are all facing the same challenges, in essence that while there are a number of enthusiastic, dedicated and open minded Grass Roots coaches there are also unfortunately a number of the opposite.  Probably the single biggest message that I took from the conference was on reflection and encouraging everyone just to take a small time out to reflect on sessions, performance and what we might do differently next time.

This isn’t anything new, as part of our coaching badges we have to evaluate and reflect on our sessions but do we do this because we want to and really think about how things went or because we feel we have to? Do we all reflect in the same way and what actually are the different ways we can think about our previous actions? For me this was the key message, encouraging reflective practice in a way that will suit the circumstances AND the nature of the individual concerned.   Encouraging coaches to think about their sessions honestly and contemplate what they might amend or change for next time is a crucial step in improving their abilities and experiences and more importantly those of their players.

My own self-evaluation approach had been heavily influenced by my idols such as Pep Guardiola pepg1and their approach and methods. This wasn’t and still isn’t appropriate for the level at which I am coaching. Yes, their influence was a good one, encouraging me to reflect on my performance and planning but rather than find the right way for me I tried to replicate the right way for them which lessened the benefit.  Reflection, like coaching  is about finding the right style from which you and ultimately your players can benefit.

Thought provoking stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.  Besides the workshops such as those on Reflection mentioned above there were also discussions and presentations on other topics such as Managing Conflict and the Art of Noticing. There was also a presentation on the England DNA. I’ll talk about this in a forthcoming post but do have a read on the FA website. There will also be workshops running across the County FA’s on the subject, it’d be well worth your while attending.

The conference itself was overwhelmingly a success and was proof once more that although the FA might not be perfect there are things happening to support the coaching workforce at all levels. Some pundits on Rant Radio (Talksport..) would have you believe otherwise but initiatives like this; that have been running for 2 years, that they are seemingly unaware of only serve to highlight their own ignorance. These things will take time but slowly and surely we’ll get there.

If you’re involved with the programme or have any thoughts on it or your own ways of reflective practice  remember #sharingiscaring

Until next time


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January 2015 – New year, new targets

Greetings one and all and a very Happy New Year to you!

I hope you all had a relaxing and enjoyable festive period and have entered the new year with your batteries fully recharged. Hyper children and pilgrimages to various parts of the UK kept me busy but I still found time to sit down, reflect on the past year and plan for the year ahead.

Without doubt my main goal is to get on to an A license course.  Having tried unsuccessfully in previous years I’m going all out this year to secure a place. I wouldn’t say it’s make or break for me but it’s close.  After all, I have acted upon the feedback they’ve provided me in previous failed applications and should more than meet all of the criteria (and some).   My application is in and I should hopefully find out in April. Fingers crossed.  A colleague asked me about the Advanced Youth Award and would I consider that instead. Well truthfully I would love to do that course but the A licenses is the fundamental pre-requisite for the full time coaching roles that I’m interested in. The AYA is very much a nice to have at present so it’s a question of priorities and more importantly what is more likely to get that elusive first full time role.

Over the course of this month I will also be migrating the blog to a different platform, this will hopefully save me some time fighting spambots, hackers and old tin!

Once up and stable I hope to contribute more session plans and articles so look out for that.

What plans do you have? What are your goals? I’d be interested to hear them.

May 2015 be a brilliant year for you all





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December Update – Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to All!

hollyGreetings and welcome to the final update of 2014.

For many coaches out there the Xmas period provides a welcome break, a chance to recharge the batteries and spend some much needed time with friends and loved ones.  For me personally it’s also a time to reflect on the year proceedings and a chance to evaluate the current seasons performance and consider any changes for the 2nd half. It’s very much the half time interval, a chance to put in place amendments to my plan to help me kick on for the second half of the season.

Looking back at my 2014 goals I’m pleased with the progress that I’ve made. I was able to successfully pass the FA Youth Award, I completed my PTLLS qualification and more importantly gained much more experience on the grass within Academy Football. In fact probably the biggest thing for me was leaving my good friends in the Foundation Phase behind and stepping up in to the Youth Development Phase. I’ve no shame in saying I vastly underestimated the difference between phases . My experience gained there has undoubtedly made me a better coach and although I’ve always wanted to work with older players my time was well spent. Its only now I truly appreciate the need for age group specialisation having worked outside of my comfort zone for the last 4 years.  Stepping up a phase has made me step up and in many ways it’s like starting all over again.  I’d recommend any coach to challenge themselves in this way.

The first half of the new season has seen me working with a new coaching partner; a vastly  experienced coach at this level, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience so far including the numerous debates we’ve had on all things football.  He has provoked self evaluation and made me consider my manner and style. The change has been very good for me.  The quest of course is on-going and I’m hopeful that this year my A License Application will be accepted for a place in July or August. Given I have done everything on the action plan I was provided with I sincerely hope so. The Advanced Youth Award is not open to general applicants at present so there’s no other realistic target for me career wise.  So for 2015 that is the main focal point for me besides spending more time once more on the training ground learning and developing my skills further.

Over Xmas I intend to indulge and forget about football; at least from a coaching / planning perspective. In my opinion allowing yourself to switch off for a period refreshes the mind and when I return I often discover things I’ve missed and other avenues to investigate.  I will read of course and I’m hoping Santa brings me further joy in my stocking this year (Developing Decision Makers by Lynn Kidman to name but one). Getting some family time to me is important. Sacrifices are made of friends and family because of coaching commitments and it’s only fair to show your appreciation.  I also want to show my appreciation to you, the readers of my blog. The blog has been going now for 4 years and has been a wonderful facilitator, enabling me to meet and speak to coaches from all over the world many of whom are on their own journeys and have faced similar challenges. I’m really glad I’ve been able to offer some help and guidance and to those who have said the blog has inspired them to start / continue I thank you, you in turn inspire me to continue blogging about my progress both good and bad.  Without you the readers there would be no blog, thank you for your continued support.

All that’s left for me to say is have a very Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year and here’s to reaching more milestones in 2015Xmas 1

Yours in sport




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November Update – Recruitment and the Rooney Rule

Hello and thanks for reading Novembers update. I hope your season so far is surpassing expectations and you’re all progressing well on your coaching journeys! I wanted to use Novembers update to talk about something that is close to my heart indeed it’s the very reason I started this blog in the first place; recruitment and the quest to secure a job within football.

This is currently the subject of much debate especially around the lack of representation within football from BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) communities. There can be no doubt that the representation of black coaches in particular within football is disproportional to the number of black players that play the professional game. This has led to calls from the SPTT (The Sports People’s Think Tank)to ensure 20 per cent of coaches are from black or ethnic minority backgrounds by 2020 and for the governing bodies to implement the so-called Rooney rule (

I’m not sure that this is the answer; positive discrimination should not in my opinion be the answer to negative discrimination. It serves only to create tokenism and further devalues the opinion of those given opportunities that are beyond them.  If a candidate is suitably qualified and experienced for the job it shouldn’t matter what background they are from. I was extremely pleased to see this viewpoint taken recently by Kieron Dyer and Titus Bramble, prominent ex players, proud of their heritage who want to progress based on their skills and abilities and not on the colour of their skin.

“I don’t want to be interviewed because it’s filling a quota,” Under-16s coach Dyer told the Telegraph.


Marcus Gayle a former Jamaican international said,

“It seems to be the same old story of people getting recruited for who they know rather than what they know. There has to be something that is currently going on, some sort of blockage of improvement. I think there definitely needs a bigger table to have this conversation on – about the recruitment policies, of candidates for certain positions.”


For me this is the crux of the problem. The fundamental reason that there are only a small number of BAME coaches and managers is the same reason that many others find it hard to get into the game. Jobs go to the same people all of the time. There is a finite pool of managers who simply get recycled and the same can be said of coaches though admittedly to a lesser degree. Football is still a closed shop, it is still jobs for the boys and there is a “better the devil you know” attitude due to the results driven nature of the sport. Any new coaches regardless of background find it tough to make a break through.  Did you know for example that clubs are not legally obliged to advertise roles externally? They’re not even obliged to advertise internally, it depends on the policy that they have in place and often these have caveats to get them around any sort of advertisement and allow management figures to appoint who they want. So as Marcus said, unless you know the right people you are going to find it difficult!

Football needs to expand its pool of recruitment, in doing this it will naturally increase the representation from other communities. We need champions to prove it can be done, trail blazers who will encourage the old guard to give others a chance and finally when coaching is seen as a viable career you will see more and more people engaging and taking the plunge. Until that point nothing will change. I’m not saying that there isn’t a racial undercurrent somewhere and I’m all for bursaries and initiatives to engage BAME communities and coaches more in the sport we all love. What I’m saying however is that we need to create a level playing field for ALL involved, to give everyone with the drive, determination and commitment the opportunity to prove themselves. Positive discrimination is not the answer, providing opportunities for talented individuals is.

Thanks for reading and as always any feedback is welcome.


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Utopia or Oblivion – The Vision of Universality Explained – A Review

Hi all,

Recently I had the opportunity to get my filthy mitts on an advanced copy of the latest book by Matthew Whitehouse (thanks Matt).  As readers of this blog will know I’ve done a fair few book reviews over the years and I’m more than happy to share another. Let me know what you think!



The great Bill Shankly famously said that “football is a simple game made complicated by people who should know better“. It’s a quotation that is often used as justification to belittle or besmirch managers and coaches whose tactics have recently failed them. The true meaning behind the quotation has been lost in its misuse for Shankly also said Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass”. It’s here where we get the true meaning of what Shankly was trying to say. Forget positions and positional specialisations what you need fundamentally is footballers who can play the game, footballers who regardless of where they play are capable of what Shankly states at all times, regardless of the opposition and the pressure they put them under. What you need in your players is universality and it is this concept, this philosophy that is the subject of the latest book by Matt Whitehouse; author of “The Way Forward: Solutions to England’s Football Failings” and the award winning blog The Whitehouse Address

Universality, The Blueprint for Soccer’s New Era, published by Bennion Kearny was released on 2nd September.universality The sub heading “How Germany and Pep Guardiola are showing us the Future Football Game” is the biggest clue as to the journey the reader is about to embark upon and what a journey it is. Starting with an overview of recent history, consideration is given to the recent powers in European football and the domination of individual nations within European competition, culminating in the Spanish blueprint and their recent usurpation by the dominant Germans. The great sides of recent history are discussed and dissected succinctly and neatly with a combination of well researched fact and justified opinion that is fast becoming the hallmark of the author’s work. Readers of the author’s blog will be familiar with some of the content and opinion here and for this reviewer the book really comes into its own in Section 2 which covers the evolution of football within the 21st century. In comes the counter press, gegenpressing makes its appearance (TV pundits take note), tiki-taka and the importance of transition are covered in detail and it’s within this section that we begin to see how the modern game is evolving and sacrificing the “me for the we” (ch 7, p87). Positional evolution is covered in great detail and the reader soon starts to realise that every player in every position has to be excellent technically and able to perform Shankly’s simple truth and there can be no finer example than Germany’s Philip Lahma world class player who is capable of playing in multiple positions….one of the new breed of players who can be regarded as complete…a superb multi functional player who is showing us where the game is moving….towards universality(ch 11 p 119).

The final section of the book looks at the visionaries behind this approach and it is no surprise to see many familiar names. Indeed with the recent arrival of Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United, discussions about philosophy appear to be all the rage. The subsequent departure of Shinji Kagawa; a player Van Gaal described as capable of playing only one position, is a shining example of the way modern football is moving based upon the original philosophy of Totalfootball something that the author has been at pains to point out throughout this work and the book concludes inevitably with the main protagonist, one Pep Guardiola. Called “The Architect” by the author, Guardiola’s career is analysed from his playing days onwards to his current role at Bayern Munich. His vision, his successes and his failures are all detailed and own quest for footballing utopia should ensure; as the author highlights, that the future game is exhilarating, bold and innovative.

The reader should upon completion feel; if not enlightened, educated, at the very least by this thoroughly researched and well written work. Those who have a passion for the history and evolution of the game will appreciate it all the more and it deserves a place on the book shelf of any true football aficionado.


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September Update – Progress and the Art of Communication

Hi all,

So, one month in to the new season and I’m slowly getting to grips with my new surroundings and work colleagues and so far so good!  Working in the Youth Development Phase is pretty much what I expected. Though still working with some small sided games, there is much more of an emphasis on technical and tactical aspects with 9v9 and 11v11 coming in to play for the U12s.  I’m fortunate to be working with an extremely experienced coach at this level and it’s really interesting to see the differences in approach between foundation and youth development.  The curriculum is different albeit not by much at U12 with additional topics such as defending in units coming in to play. In addition the Annual training programme is broken down more from 4 blocks of 3 week sections over 3 periods in the Foundation Phase to 2 blocks of 3 week sections over 6 periods within the Youth Development Phase. There are also changes in the way player targets are set and the frequency of player reviews and more besides.

What I wanted to focus on in this post however is a topic that I honestly can’t say I’ve ever truly focused a session on – Communication. Communication is obviously crucial to so much in football and after searching through my notes and old session plans I was surprised to see I’d never done a session on it as the central focus.  So with my iPAD at hand and the FA’s Coaching App loaded up I started to plan and this is what I came up with.

U12 – 050914 – Communication

I took my inspiration from the Coaching Disabled Footballers course I did where we played a game of deaf football and then gradually built it up from there. The focus is firstly on non verbal forms of communication building up to using all forms and how to convey as much information as possible quickly and succinctly. this is all done using small sided game set up for quick transition.

The session seemed to go well, the players evaluation at the end was positive and it was extremely interesting to see how creative and expressive they could be without verbal communications. Some of the hand signals were particularly interesting :) and when combined at the end with all forms of communication we had disguised communications and all sorts.  An experiment well worth repeating I think.  Let me know if you try it / have tried something similar and what your results were. That’s it from me for now, I’m busy reading and reviewing the latest masterpiece from Matt Whitehouse; “Universality – The Blueprint for Soccer’s New Era”. As soon as I’ve finished my review I’ll post it up here. So until next time I wish you well.


PS Coaching point 1 reads:

Think about the various forms of communication besides verbal communication. Try some of them.

Some examples:

Eye contact

Hand signals / gestures…


no idea why the coaching app shrunk it, another bug…. :)


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And so it begins!

Hello everyone and welcome back to my first blog post of the new season!

I hope pre-season went for you all, you had some quality time with friends and family and you’re now raring to go for season 2014-2015. kickoffThere’s been a lot of changes this season in the professional game both in terms of playing and coaching personnel and it’s been all change in my own little coaching world as well. As I mentioned back in my June post I anticipated there would be some changes and indeed there have been and for the most part I’m extremely optimistic about the changes that have occurred. I’ve moved up from my role within the Foundation Phase at City and I’m now working in the Youth Development Phase with the U12’s age group. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time working in the Foundation Phase, the 4 years have flown by and I’ve learned so much from the players and fellow coaches alike. In order to progress and gain a place on the A license course however I need to be working with older players (the FA’s words by the way not mine). In truth I’ve always felt that I’ve worked better with older players but in order to progress in all things you need to move out of your comfort zone and the past 4 years have really done that. I’m actually sad to have left the phase but I’m looking forward to the new challenge, working with new players and colleagues and learning as much as I can to hopefully this time have my application accepted on to the course accepted. It was put to me to go for the Advanced Youth Award and I would very much like to also gain a place on this course. The issue for me however is that if I want to secure a full time role in football the A license is mandatory for most roles, the Advanced Youth Award on the other hand is a nice to have. With limited time and money available I could only do one course and naturally you will always pick the one that gives you the best opportunity of securing a role. That’s the way of the world I’m afraid, who knows, I might get 6 lucky numbers come up and end up doing both ;)

The change in Phase and role is not the only thing different for the coming season. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have been appointed by the FA as a Coach Mentor for Gloucestershire. A role working for the FA has been something I have tried on a numerous occasions to secure and I’m thrilled to be able to represent the organisation and give something back to the Grassroots clubs and coaching colleagues who helped me on my way all those years ago.Football Association As coaches we often moan about the FA and the lack of action and opportunities but I genuinely believe that they are trying to do something about this perception. The mentoring programme is one such initiative to try to help support coaches and improve the standard of coaching within the UK for the benefit of the most important people – the players. The workshops I have attended with my new colleagues have filled me with optimism for the success of the programme and I’m looking forward to working within the region and meeting many more new faces.

My plans for this season therefore depend very much on my experiences in my new roles but generally I always strive to further my coaching education by gaining as much experience as possible; being the proverbial sponge, and trying my very hardest to be the best I can be. My goal for this coming season is ultimately to try to secure a place on the A licence Part 1 course for next year but regardless of that outcome I’m going to learn as much as I can, laugh and make it fun for myself and players / colleagues and love being able to work in the beautiful game.

What are your goals and plans for the coming season? Whatever they are I wish you well!


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Time to recharge

Hi all,

for many of us now it’s the summer break. Seasons have finished and now it’s time to be resting, recuperating and spending time with families and friends. Is this really the case however? Traditionally summer times are the time when coaches catch up on CPD, attend courses and then of course this year is the world cup so do coaches ever take the time to step back and re-evaluate on a bigger level than just a session by session basis? The summer for me is an important land mark. It helps me reflect on my progress half way through the calendar year and plan some of the aforementioned activities. More important that that though is that it serves as a reminder to dedicate time to those important to me that aren’t necessarily interested in a spherical, inflated pigs bladder.

Sometimes I’m conscious I get sucked into a coaches bubble and devote my time and effort to everything coaching wise and not enough to the support network around me that actually enable me to do the thing that I love. With that in mind I’m off on vacation on a water sports and activities based holiday with my family to relax, indulge and spend some quality time with them. I’ve got some recommended reading of course and I’ll watch games when I can but this is their time now.
I’m hoping to have some exciting news when I return but until then have a good summer and just remember to give something back to those that help you get to where you want to be.

Speak to you all soon!


PS Come on England!

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Next Objective ….. done!

Hi all,

6 weeks since the first major objective of 2014 and I’m really pleased to say I’ve managed to meet the next one. In January’s post 2014 Goals I talked about a number of secondary objectives and last week I finally received confirmation that I’d obtained my Level 4 certificate in Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector or PTLLS for short. So what is it and what’s the benefit?
Preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector
Well this is the initial mandatory award for anyone wanting to enter teaching in The Lifelong Learning Sector, or those who are currently teaching and do not possess any formal teaching qualifications. This applies to anyone working on LSC funded programmes, including community based learning and development programmes, employment and work-based learning as well as those teaching and training in the Further Education sector. The benefit is that upon successfully completing the course you have a universally accepted training qualification. Something that proves you are competent in preparing and teaching higher education learners (16+). More and more coaches are looking at ways of supplementing their coaching qualifications to give them an advantage when it comes to further employment. Indeed I have heard several mentions of formal teaching qualifications becoming a requirement in the future for some coaching roles so it seemed like a logical choice to try to strengthen my coaching skills and CV. The other advantage is those seeking coach educator roles will have a qualification that provides evidence of teaching and mentoring to strengthen any future job application.
There are two options for the course, you can attend a 4 day course with a training provider to take you through the syllabus and includes your practical “micro teach” session or like me you can take a distance learning option where you do all the work off your own back and attend a 1 day micro teach day / peer observation day. Be advised however both options still require a lot of coursework. You are expected to create a portfolio answering questions on each area in a mini essay format (minimum 200 words) and if you elect to go for the higher level award (4 instead of 3) you are expected to reference Harvard style and evaluate as well as analyse topics. You really do have to dedicate the time and effort to completing this award, which makes it all the more worthwhile in my opinion. The whole thing took me about 3 months though I did have some difficulty arranging my micro teach with the training provider I used. I’m not totally convinced by them to be honest which is why I’m not going to give them the publicity by printing their name nevertheless I was very pleased to get through it and I hope it will prove as beneficial as I hope!

If you’re interested in this or want to know more about PTLLS from a personal perspective then by all means give me a shout. I’ve attached my micro teach session to this post so you can see what I did it on – Futsal surprise surprise ;)

An Introduction to Futsal

So what next, well I’m going to concentrate on finishing this season and see where my next contract takes me! There’s but a few weeks left to get to grips with everything and for all Academies it’s a busy time with contract renewals and signings. My CPD has been completed so I’m going to have a peruse of what’s available. Any recommendations?

Until next time


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