Author: Daniel Lane

Opposition watch: Maghreb FC

International Surrey Football will take on Maghreb FC this weekend in the World Unity FA World Series third-place play-off as we look to bounce back from consecutive defeats to the Chagos Islands.

It will be the first time we’ve ever locked horns with Maghreb FC, so ahead of the game we caught up with Maghreb’s Ayman Dahdouh to learn more about who Maghreb are, what they represent and where they might cause us problems on Sunday…

Tell us about Maghreb FC and who you represent…

“We are a team built from Moroccan foundations, welcoming all ethnicities as we unite together to share our passion of expressing ourselves on the football pitch. Maghreb historically symbolises the western region of North Africa and so we felt it was necessary to build a football team that represents our heritage.”

How much does it mean to represent Maghreb?

“Maghreb is who we are. As players it runs through our blood. When we play, we are representing a region of nations that mean absolutely everything to us and our families.”

How long have you been a team?

“Our group of players grew up together within different communities in London. For the past five years many of our players have represented teams together, which has enabled us to forge established and friendly relationships on and off the pitch. We began as a team three years ago, organising and competing in events to raise money for charities worldwide. We then took that extra step by beginning to compete and establish ourselves as Maghreb FC two years ago.”

What shape is the team in coming into this weekend’s game?

“We are a very flexible team who base our philosophy on expressing ourselves. We like to keep possession of the ball and create as many chances as possible while limiting our defensive errors. Being able to transition from four at the back to three and vice versa will play a huge part in how we line up our shape on Sunday.”

What’s your team’s biggest strength?

“Our biggest strength is our resilience in terms of how we show fighting spirit and work for our teammates on the pitch. We understand our style of football and try to replicate our model as close to the script over the duration of the match.”

What are your ambitions for the future with Maghreb?

“Maghreb FC would like to continue to compete within the UK but in the near future we also want to begin to be recognised by international tournaments which we can participate in and win. We also hope to be recognised by the football governing bodies as we continue to grow our network of players within the UK and worldwide.”

Captain’s Notes: Jay Jones

Nobody has represented International Surrey Football on more occasions than Jay Jones.

The ISF men’s captain has donned the blue and gold for each of our six matches so far – including both of our recent matches against Chagos Islands.

In this latest instalment of Captain’s Notes, we hear Jay’s honest take on those two defeats, working under a new coach and this weekend’s clash against Maghreb FC…

How do you reflect on the two games against Chagos Islands?

“I think Chagos have grown as a team in the past few years and credit to them for doing that. I can see that they all play with immense pride and passion and I think that’s something we lacked over the two games. They have built a team with the same faces over the years and that is definitely something we should be striving towards.”

You will have been desperate to get the win in the second game after the result in the first one, but it just wasn’t to be…

“Football can be like this, we both learned a lot from the first game and they went away and implemented what they learned better than us. Chagos were deserved winners in both games and we have some work to do as a team.”

You only had a limited number of training sessions ahead of the matches. What did you focus on and how hard was it to go into the games without much time on the training pitch?

“The numbers at training weren’t great, but that was expected with players still playing on Sundays, which is now at quite a high level. The main focus was on getting to know new faces and getting to grips with what our new manager was looking for. Everyone playing should naturally be match fit now we’re at the end of the season but I feel we lacked some sharpness throughout.”

It had been a long time since we last played before the first match against Chagos Islands. How hard was it to pick up after such a long break?

“It’s always easy to get back onto a football pitch because it’s something that we all love. It’s like going home again.”

Is there anything in particular you think we need to work on ahead of our next game?

“It’s difficult for us to work on things in the build up to the next game as we are never sure who’s available at the moment. A majority of our core group have other commitments in football, but once we’re all on the pitch we should be aiming to bond quickly and get a brief understanding of how each other play.”

We play Maghreb this weekend. What are your expectations for the game?

“I’m familiar with many of the Maghreb players – they are nice lads who are extremely talented footballers. They are good both physically and technically, spending a lot of time off the pitch together as well. There’s no weak link in their team so we’re going to have to step up.”

You’ve played in every ISF game so far – six in total. How does it feel to be the leading appearance maker for the team?

“I had a little laugh before the Chagos game because I realised I would have the most appearances. Hopefully this continues with the trust of my manager and teammates. I’m always very proud to represent Surrey and it would be great if we could get a few more players up to five or six appearances.”

Photo credit: Nathanael Osborne

View from the Dugout: Matt Nash

Matt Nash took charge of his first game as International Surrey Football men’s coach last Saturday – and though the 3-2 defeat to Chagos Islands wasn’t the result we all wanted, there were plenty of positives to take from the performance.

We caught up with the boss a few days after the Chagos game to get his thoughts on the result.

What were you looking for in training?

Most players were still playing for their Sunday teams so it was all about just trying to find some new talent for what is effectively a new team. The squad for the first game only included four previous players and 12 debutants, which is something we were proud of in the performance as hardly anyone had ever played together before. Training helped us find players like Denis Negulescu, who is only 17, so it was a worthwhile exercise.

What system or style are you looking to play? How much do you have to adapt to the players you have available?

We started with a 4-3-3 against Chagos after a few withdrawals on the day but changed it after going in 3-1 down at half-time and then tweaked the formation to a 4-4-2 to accommodate the players we had at our disposal. We want to play good football but also be able to mix it when required. We have some talented wide players and it’s about trying to work out the best way for us to play to give us the best chance of winning matches.

What did you tell the players before kick-off against the Chagos Islands?

The importance of representing Surrey was drilled home to them and also the team ethic we are looking to build here – no egos, no individuals, no problems, just a united squad. We drilled home to them how vital it is to try to play good football when possible. But also how, when they come to us, it should be fun and we should be able to enjoy the time we spend together and the matches.

What were you expecting to see?

We knew the early stages would be disjointed because of the nature of it being our first match together and the fact we were relying on so many players getting to know each other in a short space of time. Only four had played for Surrey before and there were 12 debutants. With Sunday leagues and cups ongoing, it could well be that there are more debuts to come over the next two weeks.

We conceded the first goal but managed to equalise…

It was really good to see the character to battle back into the game twice. You could see by the reactions to both the goals that the players really believed, despite the challenges, we could go on and win the game, so to lose it in the end was disappointing.

What did you make of the performance?

The first half was a learning process. We learned some good things, some not so good. We found some new partnerships and saw players in different positions. The second half was much, much better, much more how we see a Surrey team playing. What we need to do is create more chances and get more efforts on target and test the goalkeeper, based on that. Chagos were very dogged and did not give us an inch so we have to learn how to play against teams like that.

Any things you’re looking to work on?

All areas in some capacity, although we are limited on the time we have together. We want to find several ways to play so that we have a plan A, B and C if necessary. Also on how best to break down stubborn teams like Chagos.

You face Chagos again this weekend…

We expect the personnel, whoever plays, to not allow our standard to drop for one moment. We can’t afford lapses of concentration, we can’t dip below the bar we set ourselves in the second half on Sunday. It’s all about building on that now, being solid at the back and scoring more goals ourselves.

Photo credit: Nathanael Osborne

View from the Dugout: Stephen Satterly

International Surrey Women’s Football coach Stephen Satterly oversaw an 8-1 win over Surrey University in our first-ever game in late April.

Here – in his own words – he lifts the lid on the build-up to the game and looks at the result in more detail…

“We have a great group of coaches and are all very experienced. What we were looking for in the initial sessions was ability and quality of player and problem solvers – everything else comes from the coaches. The sessions were designed to show technical ability and feel for the ball. Systems and style will vary during games – we will play as adaptable units and we will be able to change the way we set up and play. But will always be aggressive going forward. We have to adapt our style of play to player availability, but we will endeavour to play the same way – aggressive forward play with clever quality players.

“Ahead of the first game, we gave the ladies individual and unit tasks for the game, plus specific information regarding times when we were in and out of possession. That changed as the game progressed. As it was our first fixture, with a new squad, I didn’t expect too much, but – wow – what a good surprise!

“I was a little concerned when we conceded the first goal, as the team were still finding their feet and understanding their roles, but the reaction and work ethic after that was excellent and the confidence grew minute by minute. The determination and effort from the group was incredibly impressive.

“Gemma [Luke] got a first game hat-trick – a fantastic start. Gemma has very good ability and strikes the ball so well, so I’m delighted for her.

“Stan [Emily Stanley] is great with everyone. She wants to do well at everything, but the big thing Stan brings is determination. She sets the bar very high and everyone in the squad is expected to reach that bar.

“It was our first fixture, so obviously there are things that need attention on and off the pitch. As we progress, the squad will have more information on what we want to achieve on the pitch and how we plan to do that. It’s a great start and we can only improve tactically and technically as we approach further fixtures. It’s all very positive.”

Photo: Sheena Booker

Captain’s Notes: Emily Stanley

International Surrey Women’s Football captain Emily Stanley played the full 90 minutes as we ran out 8-1 winners over Surrey University in our first-ever match on Saturday 24 April.

In the first instalment of this brand-new feature, we catch up with Emily to learn more about her background, get the lowdown on wearing the ISF captain’s armband and see what she made of that big debut win.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

“I currently work in finance and have done since I was 19. I am about to move into a new role working in investment banking, so it’s a massive change to my current complaints handling job! Other than working and playing for ISF, I also play for Dorking Wanderers as a CM.”

What are your personal goals in football?

“To be happy and always give 110% when I’m on the pitch. Whilst I’d love to say I want to be a professional footballer, I’m a bit past that stage in my career!”

How did you get involved with ISF?

“I’ve always wanted to play for Surrey but there was never a senior level team for us, when ISF was announced (back in 2019!) I immediately emailed John to sign up. Originally, the trials were May 2019, so it’s been a long time coming, but it was definitely worth the wait. Danny has always been great at keeping players updated, especially with COVID putting a pause on things again, so whilst it’s been ages, it’s been handled really well.”

Tell us about how you were made captain?

“I had been speaking with Danny [Clarke] ahead of our first game against Surrey Uni via email and he emailed me to say that the coaches had made me captain! I was completely shocked as the first training session I was a little bit rusty but I’m so thankful for the opportunity and I’m looking forward to helping create a major platform for female footballers in Surrey with the help of ISF and the team.”

You only had a limited number of training sessions ahead of the friendly against Surrey University. How did they go?

“They were great, I was only able to attend the first session but the players were fantastic. There was a great atmosphere, even though we didn’t all know each other. The session in place was so well structured which really impressed me, there wasn’t any standing around which can happen at trialist training sessions, so it was a brilliant start. I heard the second session was just as good, with even more players in attendance!”

What’s the biggest challenge when you’re a new team just starting out?

“I think the biggest challenge is getting players on board, I know that some clubs aren’t totally keen on the idea of their players being with another team but ISF are a separate entity, with brilliant coaches and the opportunity for players to really improve, work with other players and develop beyond club levels. It’s something that I’m sure will get better as our name gets out there more but, it’s definitely a challenge for now!”

We had a great win over Surrey University. What did you make of the game?

“I was so impressed by the players during our first game, I hadn’t met everyone who played in the game so initially I was worried it would be difficult to get into a playing system that accommodated for everyone but boy, was I wrong! Everyone gave 100%, there was so much encouragement from each player and the football being played was unreal. You’d never have thought it was our first ever game, the combination play and effortlessness of it all was great to be a part of.”

What impressed you the most?

“Definitely the style of play! I didn’t expect the team to naturally play so well together, there was no real “hit and hope” football which you can sometimes get when you throw a bunch of individual players together. We played as a team, moving the ball between us so easily, it was as if we’d been a team for years!”

You had another big game for Dorking the very next day – how did that go? The legs must have been heavy by Sunday evening!

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in pain Sunday evening! We played Leyton Orient Reserves the next day and came away with a 3 – 2 win in the Capital Cup, we’re now into the semi-finals which is great as a shot at silverware would be amazing after another null and void season. It was such a competitive game and I made up for missing a 1v1 on Saturday by getting a goal on Sunday. Overall, it was great weekend of football for me!”

Photo credit: Sheena Booker