Following Northampton Lions expansion to the Midlands Junior Premier League, head coach Howard Willmott is pleased with how the club is taking shape.
As announced in early July, the club will balance a new football programme while continuing to seek success in the National Futsal League – an opportunity accessible to more than just current players, with open trials for talented, aspiring footballers now available to arrange.
“It has long been part of the plan to have the two disciplines together and be in a position to nurture an even greater focus from the players,” Willmott explained. “That moment has arrived.
“If we can do football, futsal, and a good level of strength and conditioning, we are providing all the elements needed to improve players significantly.
“Now, it’s all under one roof which is the most important part, whereas before it was futsal here, football there, and strength and conditioning somewhere else.
“By not changing your hats each day, it’s all simpler. You have more control and if you are doing it well, it’s better for everybody.”
Northampton Lions have also expanded on the training front. Since 4th July, Willmott has been able to bring the whole squad together to train, separating them into small, isolated groups with everyone maintaining social distancing.
Having everybody on the same field has been a boost for Willmott as much as the team, both physically and mentally. That is not to say that lockdown was wasted, far from it in fact.
“The players followed a structured training programme throughout, and I was delighted with how well they embraced everything. They’ve worked very hard during a difficult period.
“We have been able to focus on technique more than we ever had done because we never really stopped [when the lockdown struck], it was just a change. So, if a player had time alone, they could practice their technique.
“This month will be different – more patterns of play, how we want to work as a group, and team spirit, which we can start working on now everyone is training in the same place.
“With preparation being spent off the pitch as well, the grass should be in as good a condition as it’s ever been, which will help us during the season.”
The team’s work ethic has been outstanding over the lockdown period, a drive for excellence that is embodied by the club’s growth into 11-a-side football.
“If you are continually improving, you are generally onto something good, whether that’s making the individuals, the team, or the organisation better, they all tie into each other.
“This [expansion] is a big step in advancing the organisation, which in turn would improve the players because we can work in more efficiently.
“It’s nice to have something that’s ours, that we can build and develop as we like, without there being cultural obstacles to overcome. It’s up to us to shape around our beliefs.”