9v9 (U11 & U12)

Written by Tim Akers & Gavin Berkerey


At u11 age, matches move to being 9 aside, played on 3/4 size to almost full size pitches (depending on venue). Teams are no longer paired like in 7 aside – you are on your own. There are matches every week. You play 1 match with x2 30 minutes halves. In the Crowborough league (CDJFL), matches are played on a Saturday (note, at u12 – their matches move to Sundays!!), and in the Tandridge Youth League (TYL) they play on Sundays.

Going forward from this point - Tuesday training is essential - it is the only time you train. For managers it is difficult (but not impossible) to manage a team if you can't make training. You will need a coach/assistant/helpers to run training for you if this is the case.

A squad of between 12 and 16 is ideal, which might mean teams need to join together to create new squads at the end of the u10 season. You can get by with 12/13 but you may struggle occasionally to field a team (you can't share players within the same league!!!!).
You can't postpone games because you can't raise a team - you have to play with less players (I think the rules state 6 or 7 is the minimum number you can field) or forfeit the match.

Strongly advise not to run a team with only 1 manager – it’s very difficult to do. Match day is particularly difficult. 2 or 3 helpers/coaches is best (you will need to have someone to be linesman at every match). In the CDJFL referees get appointed by the league – in Tandridge you have to find/appoint one yourself as the league finds it difficult to have contacts this far out. Fortunately the club usually have a few u15 & 16 boys who have qualified as refs’ and they are a good source to tap in to. Off-side, yellow cards and foul throws all come into play at this age.

You will find that as the players get older, if you have good players (or a good team) you have to make the step up to a stronger league, or eventually the players will leave and join a team that is playing at a higher level. This starts to happen at u11 onwards, so it’s an important decision to now think about which leagues will suit the make up for the whole age group.

Lastly, and most importantly (for the players - which we must remember is what we are doing this for) – streaming the teams. It is not an easy subject to broach, but there is plenty of experience within the club to demonstrate the benefits of making sure players are playing at the right level. The move to 9 a side is an ideal time to do it with the larger squads required. Please speak to Chris Allen about this as soon as possible as it will help develop your players better across the whole age group, and make sure we can provide football that is enjoyable for all abilities going forward.

Impact of District Football:

For the higher ability teams - towards the end of the u10 season (in April/May) there will be West Kent Schools trials for the District team which starts at U11. The District Team plays on a Saturday which clashes with the Crowborough league matches. If you have a few players going in to this it might help persuade you that you’ll need to create a Sunday team for your stronger players, as this will be the only way you keep them with your age group in the future.

District matches are usually around every other week, but they can take place over consecutive weeks. District matches take priority over club games. If the stronger teams in the age group are winning all their games at u9 and u10 level, you have potential for several players to be going in to this.

If you are the manager of one of those teams, where several players may be picked for the District Team, you will need to seriously consider whether the Tandridge or another Sunday league might be appropriate (with a view to KYL in future years). Kevin Corbett or Gavin Berkerey can provide more information on this as they have gone down this route into the Tandridge league.

Crowborough League

U11's is now an uncompetitive age group, but with the CDJFL the division you are placed in is based on the results from the U10 season. If teams are going to be significantly stronger or weaker than they were in the u10 year, or if you are joining a new league (i.e. Tandridge), you should inform the league when submitting your team application forms so teams are put in the correct division. There’s evidence where several teams that haven't done this have spent the first couple of months of the new season losing heavily. Their season is currently split into 4 equal parts of 2 months each; a series of friendlies followed by a mini league. After each section the League re-distributes teams based on the results - so in theory by the middle of the season you are playing at the right level.

Players from this point forward are registered to a team rather than the age group, so sharing between teams within the same league is not allowed. Dual registering when 2 teams play in different leagues i.e. Crowborough on a Saturday and Tandridge on a Sunday is allowed.

Tandridge League

Matches are every Sunday – usually mid morning - and the home side gets to set the kick off time. As per FA guidelines there are no published league tables at u11, but the TYL is set up with around 6 divisions which are in order of ability. It’s probably only worth doing this league if you are confident of being in the top division or two, but it is a fantastic league to develop your best players (and yourself as a coach!). You tend to play matches against other sides who are predominantly made up of players at District level football. Anyone better than the top TYL division standard is probably playing Academy football at a pro club. There’s opportunity to be moved up or down divisions – TYL are good at keeping an eye on results and pitching the teams against ones of a similar ability. It means that most weeks you can play well, but still expect to either win, lose or draw.

As with CDJFL they do also organise a couple of cup competitions. One around November and one around March. Matches are still played on Sundays, and everyone ends up playing in either a final or a 3rd/4th play-off, so it keeps every team involved and interested.

Formations & Match Craft

In terms of formations, we've included some information on 9v9 formations, with diagrams here.

Many have found that having 3 defenders is best. The remainder of the formation will depend on the strengths and weaknesses of the squad you have. 3-4-1 is usually favoured, with 2 centre midfielders and 2 wingers supporting a central striker but there are plenty of others to use and discussion on formations could be a separate note all on its own (editor's note - it is!!!).

You can typically use up to 5 subs, but having 2 or 3 is usually best. There’s a balance between keeping fresh legs on, and disrupting the team too much with too many substitutions – and not giving players enough game time.

Goal kicks are one crucial area that need a bit of practise. The opposition no longer start on the halfway at goal kicks. It can be very distressing for a goalie to stand over the ball and see 5/6 opposition players camped around the 18 yard box waiting for the ball to go into play - be prepared and maybe look to play out from the back, or if your goalie is struggling then use a defender who can clear the ball well.

Don’t get too hung up about practicing the offside…many of the kids are familiar with it from their football gaming! What is noticeably different about playing on the larger pitches is that your players who could go on a mazy run and go from one box to the other within 5 seconds cannot do that now! Also, any hurried clearances are less likely to fortunately land in the vicinity of one of your players..

Your teams need to become comfortable on the ball to retain it – even under pressure, and you also need to work on playing possession football – getting the team to pass and move more. There are loads of drills on this subject with small sided games. It’s worth really focussing on this in your training plans.