Cameron Toshack looks ahead to The GENERALI CEE Cup in Prague
Generali CEE Cup, Prague 22nd – 29th July 2015
There is an added air of intrigue this year as the English Premier League are represented for the first time with Swansea City's young guns making the trip to Central Europe. It may only be 1500km from Swansea to Prague but it's been a remarkable journey for the Welsh club over the last 18 years.
Swansea City finished the 1997-98 season in 20th place in the fourth tier of English football but a string of promotions, a new stadium and a clear footballing identity has seen the club cement their place in the top ten of the Premier League.
Coinciding with their ascent to the top of the football pyramid has been the development of their highly acclaimed youth academy.
And Cameron Toshack, son of the legendary John Toshack, has been handed the task of steering the Under 18 side to success and is relishing the chance to bring his young players to the Czech capital and competing in The GENERALI CEE Cup.
"One of the aims at our club is to stretch our players in different environments and the GENERALI CEE Cup allows us to do that early on in our preseason preparations. We have a young group which will raise challenges for our players and test their decision making. We look forward to seeing how they cope." Cameron told Prague.TV.
Swansea City's ideals are based around a possession based game with a focus on keeping the ball on the ground and attacking the opposition with quick transitions of play. It's a style that was won over plenty of neutral fans and has been fundamental to their success in climbing the divisions. Moreover, the philosophy has been filtered down to all levels of the club with the Academy as a starting point.
"Our main strengths are creativity and belief, we encourage all of our players to express themselves and be confident in possession. As a club we preach a philosophy that entails players passing the ball well and looking to regain the ball during transition as quickly as possible." said the Swansea City U18 coach.
Belief is a word that holds a lot of resonance with Welsh football right now as Swansea City finished in a record high of 8th position in the Premier League last year and the national side on the brink of qualifying for a major tournament for the first time since 1958 – and Cameron, like most Welshman, is enjoying the current landscape of Welsh football.
“With my Wales hat on, it is fantastic to see the progress Chris Coleman and his players have made. They have galvanized the nation into believing that we can qualify for a major championship and not only qualify but be confident that we can compete in a tournament environment. Wales is a proud nation with passionate people who deserve success.”
However, the Swansea City U18 side will need stacks of that belief when competing in Prague, as they have been thrown into the deep end somewhat as their opponents will be more experienced and the threat of Brazilian side Fluminese will also cast a shadow.
"Our main focus will be on ourselves. That said, we are looking forward to the different challenges the other teams will bring to our group. We do not know the sides well in the tournament plus in the UK we play mainly U18 or U21 fixtures, so the U19 bracket is not the norm. I would therefore imagine the physicality of other teams might test a number of our group." he said.
Nevertheless, local Czech sides like Slavia and Sparta Prague should also take caution if they line up against the Welsh side during The GENERALI CEE Cup. The Swansea City academy has been awarded a games programme with the elite category 1 clubs in the Premier League, so they are facing the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton on a weekly basis.
Toshack has been in the role of Swansea City U18 coach for nearly two years now and pointed out the challenges he faces. "Our objective is to develop the individual as a person and player. The end goal is to produce players, predominantly home grown, that are capable of developing into competitive U21 players at our football club who then go on and represent the first team." he told Prague.TV “The U18 age bracket has challenges that from the outside many may not be aware of, for example the players still have educational commitments and we follow a structured programme aligned to Premier league regulations."
"I really enjoy the diversity of my role working with 16-18 year olds. I work alongside a former player at Swansea City, Gary Richards, who has been a great help for me as I develop as a coach and together we work to build an elite environment for the individual to flourish. I also enjoy the day to day work alongside a great group of specialist staff." he said.
Cameron's development as a coach has also been influenced by his father, who made his name with Liverpool FC in the 1970's as player and went on to manage Real Madrid, Swansea City and the Welsh national team, to name just a few of the jobs on his illustrious CV.
"I am very fortunate as my father has worked in countries across the world winning trophies as both a player and manager and to have his experience to call upon when I have a question is invaluable" Cameron pondered. "He often leaves me thinking following our conversations. In terms of football and coaching, the best piece of advice my dad gave me was 'be yourself and don’t be afraid to make decisions'"
Away from the football, Cameron hopes his young side has time to experience Prague and has already earmarked a few sights to see "I was fortunate to visit the city on a site visit in May, it is a beautiful place and we will look to expose our players to as many different cultural experiences as possible and for them to experience the atmosphere in the old part of Prague, seeing the astronomical clock on the hour and walking through the square will I’m sure prove memorable."
"That said, we are in an important phase of our preparation for the upcoming season and the focus will be on using the experience to test ourselves and develop from a footballing perspective." Cameron concluded with his mind clearly focused on making an impact in Prague.
The action gets underway on Wednesday 22nd July and more information can be found at www.ceecup.org
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