Originally published by Spark Magazine in June 2014, online and in print.
The departing University of Sunderland football President has lashed out at the society and coaching set-up, saying he has regressed as a footballer since joining the team.
Ryan Vetch slated the training and facilities as ‘sub-standard’ and coaching mentality as poor, and said there were issues In communication throughout the set-up.
But, while the University Sports Development Manager Sean Percival agrees with concerns over facilities, he says “that there is substantial investment in football at the university and the players themselves have to take some of the blame as the role of any committee member is to ensure the running of the club. This does not fall to the coach instructor.”
The University’s four football teams did themselves little credit last season, with the 1sts and 4ths hovering above the basement in Northern 4B and 7B respectively, while the 3rds finished 3rd in 6B.
The 2nds were one win away from winning 5B.
“At Christmas, I thought that the organisation of the society was excellent,” says Veitch. “Results were not always being achieved on the pitch, which was disappointing, but something to work on after the break.
“After Christmas is where it started to go wrong. Communication broke down between the coaches, players, myself and Jonny. Training sessions became poor and the ‘no-shows’ started to happen on match days.”
Sean Percival says that there was maybe a “lack of respect” from coaching staff but “our coaching staff have been in position for a number of years and we have had success in the past, both with the men’s and women’s teams. And our office was open all the time if any concerns needed raising.
“If you look at where we are in the leagues”, Percival continues, “we’re not anywhere near where we should be. And there was a couple of times where I felt let down, if I’m honest.”
But Veitch believes that the issues go deeper than the players.
“The training and facilities are sub-standard for footballers wishing to develop their game.
“I actually think that I have regressed as a footballer due to university football.
“Matches are not of a great standard, but there are fantastic footballers with real ability at Sunderland.
“There is no real guidance or structure given in the coaching. It is more of a ‘go out and see what happens’ mentality, which is disappointing for a University first team. The coaching structure needs to be changed.
“I think that in my final year it was almost impossible to deliver my best performances on the pitch, with having the added responsibility as President.
“Things that did not fall into my category of responsibility had to be managed minutes before kick-off. It made it very difficult to be prepared and perform on the pitch.”
The University employs two main coaches, Matty Lyons and ex-Sunderland player Gary Bennett, and rely on volunteers for more coaches.
They are hampered when it comes to facilities as they would need a nearby, full-size grass pitch available in the evening, that would also need to be floodlit. They currently use Raich Carter, which is a full-sized pitch but comes with a hire cost.
Percival said: I fully understand where Ryan’s coming from on facilities, but it’s difficult to do anything as we have use partner facilities with availability.
“The offer that we have for anyone wishing to play football is excellent in my opinion. We will, as we do with all clubs and societies, develop the structure and opportunities of the club.”