Former Liverpool, Real Madrid and England striker, Michael Owen, provides an insight into the types of practice that helped him become one of England's most prolific goalscorers.
Play lots of gamesWhen I was younger, I developed confidence by playing street-type soccer every day and having the opportunity to beat players. Games are where you learn the most, certainly mentally. They sharpen concentration, you’re under pressure, your teammates are relying on you, it means something.

Don’t always play best v bestWhen I was a kid I would play against some teams and score six or seven goals in a game. It meant I could practise different ways of finishing: one on one's, dinking, placing. I could develop composure because I knew another chance would come along in a minute or two. I didn’t have to snatch at opportunities.

A teenage Michael Owen sets himself to shoot, after weaving his way through the Argentina defence during the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
Owen kept his composure to score a memorable goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup at the age of 18. The striker scored 40 times for the Three Lions. Image: Mark Leech/Offside.

Give players a chance to show-offCoaches need to put on sessions where you can express yourself: where you can show-off and always end with a game. Make it competitive, with a clear focus to ensure the intensity is good. For example, 10 passes to score a point, not just a routine possession drill.

Mental toughnessIt’s all about the mentality. Being the best player in the world was the only thing I was interested in. All players are born with a winning mentality, but you can have it knocked out of you.

Michael Owen has his shirt pulled by Robbie Fowler as he runs off to celebrate after scoring the winning goal against Arsenal in the 2001 FA Cup Final.
Owen won the Ballon d’Or as well as three trophies with Liverpool in 2001 - scoring twice in The FA Cup Final against Arsenal. Image: Mark Leech/Offside.

Give players problems to solve and let them find the answersNew formations are changing what’s required of the strikers and players in general, but also the way you coach too. It’s becoming more and more a case of give players’ problems to solve, give them situations so that they can actually make decisions themselves, and question their decisions after that. It’s a different way of playing, consequently it’s a different way of coaching. So, in training, it’s all about putting on sessions that create that environment [for players] to do things that happen in games.

Be clever with feedbackCoaches should put on sessions that encourage players to work on their weaknesses but without just telling them to ‘do this and do that’, especially in front of their mates. Have a one on one instead and build a relationship where you can give constructive feedback: "You’re doing great. If you want to be the best, you need to work on these things."

Understand the modern gameIf you go to watch Liverpool playing, nothing that they do from an attacking point of view can easily be coached. I was always taught that one striker provided depth by going long and the other striker dropped short to get the ball and link with players. The modern player appears more adaptable and instinctive, playing in lots of different positions. It goes against all the old manuals and what some coaches would say and goes against what I was taught growing up.

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