Weston’s Foundation Phase manager Matt Bazell looking to build young players for future success

PUBLISHED: 17:00 02 June 2020

Matt Bazell has been the Foundation Phase Manager of Weston since 2017. Picture: Lorna Davey

Matt Bazell has been the Foundation Phase Manager of Weston since 2017. Picture: Lorna Davey


Back in 1991 as a teenager Matt Bazell with his family moved to Germany after his Dad had been sent there because of his role in the military.

Matt Bazell has been with Weston for six years. Picture: Lorna Davey.Matt Bazell has been with Weston for six years. Picture: Lorna Davey.

In England, Bazell couldn’t get into any teams and admitted he ‘was never the best player‘ but straight away saw the changes in the game compared to back in the United Kingdom which would serve him well in the future.

“Straight away when I got over there I noticed with the coaching and training, each player was given a ball, individual aims to try and achieve,” said Bazell.

“It wasn’t just about the collective and the result, it was all to do with developing players and getting the maximum out of their potential.

“The first thing they noticed about me was I was pretty quick and I had a a good left foot. Straight away they took me out of goal and they started working me as a striker and that’s where I pretty much played the rest of my career, I scored a few goals at various clubs I played at.

Mark McKeever Head of Development, Oli Bliss Managing Director, Paul Bliss Chairman and Matt Bazell head of Academy.Mark McKeever Head of Development, Oli Bliss Managing Director, Paul Bliss Chairman and Matt Bazell head of Academy.

“The main reason I got involved in coaching was the philosophy, they had a different style.

“They focused on the individual and pulled out the best bits from that player and to be fair to them they had just won the World Cup in 1990.

“They had the infrastructure and logistics in years before them with their coaching.

“It’s only been the last 10, 15 years that the English FA have realised to develop players you need to develop coaches.

“That was a lot of the problem in England for a long time. That was the main thing until we started to develop coaches – that’s when you start to develop better players.

“That was the main reason I got involved in coaching because I realised with actual coaching and with a different culture to coaching, anyone can go all the way, improve and do their best.”

Now 43 years old, Bazell has been Weston’s Foundation Phase manager since 2017 and coaches the under-sixes through to the under-11s as he aims to help the players grow not just as footballers but as people.

He added: “It’s about giving them lots of time on the ball, the opportunity to play in different positions and the opportunity to go wrong.

“That’s the biggest key for me is to allow these players when they are younger to make mistakes for themselves, because in any learning environment you learn from your mistakes.

“My attitude is if over 20 parents are shouting instructions on the side of the pitch I will go over and say to them ‘you don’t sit in a maths class shouting out the answer for them’ because they won’t learn if you do that, they have to make mistakes in order to develop themselves.

“If you discover the right answer by yourself, you are more likely to retain that than just having the answer regurgitated to you.”

Development Phase manager Craig Graham and Senior Phase manager Mark McKeever make up the Weston Academy management team alongside Bazell, and he says there is just something special about the club.

“The quality of what we have got have at Weston is really, really good and there are not many places locally where you are being coached by an ex-Premiership player (McKeever),” he added.

“When you look at the club now from the top right the way down, again the infrastructure is really good, the foundations are really good, we’ve got a great first-team manager and coach. Scott Laird is an ex-League player – these are really good footballers not just for us, but really good guys.

“They are really invested in the club. One of the things we try to do is make sure we all know this as ex-players that we have got to be enjoying ourselves, if we are enjoying ourselves you are in an environment where you can express yourself then you will be even better and you will be braver.

“One of my little allegories I have in the Foundation Phase when I’m talking to any player is ‘confidence breeds success and success breeds confidence.’ If you are confident in what you are doing, you’ll try it, once you tried it you realise you do it, you become more confident and you are more likely to become braver and do new things.

“The way the game is developing now you have got to be brave and that’s not just in possession, it’s out of possession and when you go and play a high press with the ball back early which can leave you exposed.”

After being with Weston since 2014 Bazell has overseen so many changes since his first day with the club.

“One of the things we started to do, especially last year, is if people have a bursary for any players who are struggling, if they can’t pay teams or afford to come, each age group will be given a player and in some cases two players which we will allow to come and train for free.

“We don’t want talent to fly under the radar because we can’t afford to pay. Back when I started six years ago that would never have happened. The key is having the right people in place and the support from the board and Paul Bliss the chairman, they really buy into what we are doing.

“They realise each year we can get a couple of years through and into the first team, now we save them a lot of money. Not only that, like they all did, you bring your players through, they know the Weston way, they play for the club.”

Last season saw a number of players from the academy being given chances to play in the first team, most notably Ryan Jones and Ben Griffith, with the pair signing their first senior deals this week.

And Bazell is delighted to see players given the chance to show what they can do.

“You can’t put a price on it,” he added.

“It’s fundamental these things and these guys get the opportunity to go and do it.

“Fair play to Scott Bartlett because it’s a risk putting these young lads in and it’s so nice when they reward you and they do really well.

“I was working with Mark McKeever and Luke Purnell and we went away to Hemal Hempstead last season, we had five or six academy players in there and they did magnificently.

“Apart from the physical side of things is very tough, there’s no doubt about it, young lads come in and try to get experience, the only way they are going to get that experience is having the opportunity to play.

“To see them in there doing that to me is a really important thing.

“Players especially like Ryan, Callum (Eastwood), Bailey (Kempster), all of them they are good kids and nice lads as well. They have got all this potential and talent yet a great example is on a Friday, my first session starts at 5pm, they are finishing training at 5pm and they will always stop and have a kickabout with the kids.

“To a five-year-old, six-year-old kid it makes their day and when they turn up on Saturday to watch a game, the lad who they have had a kickabout with might not be starting but is on the bench, that is phenomenal really because that kid walks away from there feeling sky high. You know, that makes their day, it’s great.”

Bazell is usually at the club three evenings a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and says the club is honest and they can all work together in ensuring their child is at the best place it can be.

“Anything in life is building relationships and about trust, that’s the biggest thing for me,” he added.

“I want the parents to know that they trust us when they come down to us, we are there to help, it’s not about developing their child as a player but to develop them as a person.

“With boys being boys if they start playing up or if they are not doing their school work or things like that the parents will speak to the coaches and we will help to reinforce that message about school being just as important as the football.

“If we can help parents externally, we will.”

Despite returning to the UK when he was 17, Bazell has never forgotten what he learned during his three years in Germany and aims to keep uncovering hidden talents to help the club keep moving forward.

“It’s a nice place to work, I love working with children,” said Bazell.

“I love working with potential, especially being someone who had potential but no one else saw it until I went to Germany and other coaches saw that. That’s what I am just trying to do and pay it back.”

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