A 10 minute coffee break with AFC Leyton’s Head Coach, Tom Cruse
I see AFC Leyton as an extended part of my family. I care so deeply about all my players and parents and I really do think that that sets Leyton aside from the other grassroot teams out there.
How did you become a coach?
My football playing career started off when I was six years old playing for my local team thanks to my Mum and Dad. The highs of my playing career were signing for my favourite team, Leyton Orient, as a school boy and I was there for five seasons. Two memorable moments were scoring on my u17 debut at the age of 14 plus scoring another goal in a friendly for the youth team at Brisbane Road, Leyton Orient’s home stadium. At 21 I was working for a Lift company when a phone call from Joe Sheehan offered me the chance to coach a girls team over at LOASS. It is here where my coaching career and interest really starts.
What do you think about girls football in the UK?
Girls football in the UK has boomed. Thinking back to when I was at school, which was not that long ago, I cannot recall a girl in my class playing football, or even having the desire to join in at lunchtime playtime, let alone try out at one of my grassroots clubs that I played for. The talent of girls is ever increasing. This is because there are a lot of opportunities out there for girls now with most offering a good basic foundation of coaching something that may not have been on offer some years ago. Also, the publicity of the Women’s game has helped girls realise that it is ok to play football whether that be with the boys or in an all girls team.
Tell us about your successes with AFC Leyton
AFC Leyton are an all girls grassroots football club. The successes we have shared have been down to dedication, perseverance and quality of the girls that I am fortunate enough to have at my disposal. The successes we have had so far are endless. When we enter a tournament, I always believe we will be there or thereabouts come the final. In the League format, it is the same. Success is something that we at Leyton never focus on; our focus is playing good football by passing the ball, not giving it to the opposition cheaply and by doing so can we make good decisions in unlocking the oppositions defence. If we continue to apply this year in year out, I am confident that there will be many more successes along the way.
What is the best thing about coaching for this club?
I could not say there is one thing that is best about coaching AFC Leyton – There are several. If we look back on where every girl started, to where they all are now, individually and as a team, the transformation is wow. To be apart of this and witness it, is something that I will truly look back on in years to come with very fond memories. I see AFC Leyton as an extended part of my family. I care so deeply about all my players and parents and I really do think that that sets Leyton aside from the other grassroot teams out there. When we are on the pitch, I push my girls to go and be brave, go and get on the ball and express themselves as individuals and as a team, with a focus of keeping the ball. When this happens, I am very proud. To think back to some of the first training sessions we ever had at Leyton, I would never have thought that the two teams I coach today, would be as good and as strong as they are. Seeing the girls get on so well is very satisfying also. To think that without football, these girls and their friendships would not even exist. The longer they stay together, the stronger they get.
Is there an experience that stands out the most?
One experience stands out from a personal point of view. The season 2016/2017 saw one of my teams come up against a team called West Ham. This brought a new challenge for my players and team. Our first meeting we were not at the races; a little inferior of the opposition because of the team name with the full time score being 4-1 which flattered them a little with two goals being crosses that floated over our Goalkeepers head with the help of the wind. Second meeting was very different however. We adopted a game plan, the girls took on board what was asked of them and believed in themselves even moreso. It was 9 v 9 no matter who the opposition are, or are called. We overcame our fears to produce a very solid 2-1 victory in the return fixture something that I am very proud of witnessing and being apart of.
What are your future aspirations?
My future aspirations are to go as far as I can in the footballing world as possible. I would love to become a Football Manager one day. Some people like numbers, some people think money, I think football. But, firstly, I would like to see the two Leyton teams that I am currently coaching through to their last U16 game. I believe in familiarisation and continuity and as long as we are all moving forward together positively along with AFC Leyton still wanting my services, I see no reason for change. In an ideal world, the two teams I am coaching, will go from U16’s into an academy team to test themselves even further. This would be a good test to see where our girls match up against those girls who have been educated under the Regional Talent Clubs. If AFC Leyton could turn itself from a grassroot club into an RTC, this would be fantastic and even better for all involved.
Tom Cruse, Head Coach, AFC Leyton