I was taught Coerver exercises by Wiel Coerver himself and his dedicated assistant Michel Mommertz (who doesn't get close to as much credit as he should)- not from of a video or book.
Simon and I met Wiel Coerver and his assistant Michel Mommertz in the summer of 1987 while coaching at a camp at Manhatanville College in New York. We had been contemplating playing college soccer in the USA and had just left playing college soccer in Florida for Lake Placid where we won the Lake Placid Soccer America Super Six Tournament for The British All Stars (a team comprised of top English college players playing in the USA) with Simon winning tournament MVP, assembled by owner of Coerver Coaching, Alfred Galustian. We were asked to coach at the camp before we returned to Europe or Australia to play professionally and using the time to stay in shape and keep our touch sharp. During the camp we struck up a good friendship with Wiel and his assistant Michel Mommertz and our respect and enthusiasm for what we were experiencing was incredible. We were humbled by the material Wiel was demonstrating and I believe he was impressed with the ability, eagerness and enthusiasm we possessed as we tried to learn and adopt this brilliant and inspiring material. I felt like i was improving by the minute. Within days I felt smoother, more in touch with the ball, more balanced and more confident. We were hooked! We would spend hours in the dormitory hallway working on the material after many hours on the field as we tried to master the material and there were many days we would sit with Wiel and Michel going over exercises and movements with him famously ripping up napkins into little balls and using them as figurines to illustrate new exercises.
"Wiels material it generates confidence in others who seek you out more because of the the improvements. You become a ‘go to’ player...a difference maker....a game changer...... I believed players around me wanted me to have the ball because of my ability on the ball". (Simon Ireland)
Looking back I'm thrilled that we were actually watching Wiel create his exercises on a table in front of us while the whole world would get to see them later on video or in a book! I recall one day staying after the field session late in the afternoon trying to rehearse left foot step-on. I felt it wasn't quite right because my balance on the take away felt awkward and it bothered me that i couldn't do it and feel comfortable on the ball. I think i did hundreds of the same exercises working on my left foot and occasionally going back to my right foot to compare and contrast the difference. Not feeling satisfied that the movement mirrored what i was doing on the 'good' foot, I kept at it. Little did I know what Wiel was watching me from a bench near the cafeteria and I thought to myself 'oh no- i hope he wasn't watching me do that because im poor!', but looking back he told me was impressed that i was practicing his material when everyone had long left the field. In the evenings Simon and I would practice in the dorm hallway (see pic) for hours on end, in part because we had to familiarize the materials and in part because we knew it was making us better given we were still planning to play after the summer ended.
'When WC and I where doing a clinic/camp in New York, Manhattanville college, we met the brothers Simon and Gary Ireland, two energetic, passionate guys who loved to play soccer. We asked them to join us in the clinics and camps to give us a helping hand. It turned out that the brothers where very eager to learn and inexhaustibly in making practice hours. They understood immediately what the WC methodology was about.WC and I where very fond of the brothers, not only for there abilities but also as a person! We then decide to offer them a opportunity with us in Dubai at Al Wasl Football club to be our assistants and to further learn the methodology. Fantastic achievements they have made and great ambassadors for the Wiel Coerver philosophy!' Michel Mommertz
Little did i know that only 8 months later I was going to be back in Australia selected to tour Fiji for Queensland Men's team and invited to play against Manchester City, Arsenal and Nottingham Forest at age 21! But in the meantime, I was obsessed with the material. I couldn't wait for what was in store the next day. We simply hadn't seen most of this type of material before, at least not in the way it was presented to us. I kept asking myself 'why weren't we taught this before?' and i have some very strong and well thought out reflections on why this was, and still in the case.
If you asked me how i learned Wiel's material, and probably the reason why he hired me, it's because i wouldn't stop until i perfected whatever was thrown at me. I was in the stage in my playing career where i was desperately seeking self improvement. Not tactically or physically because i was very well developed in these areas after stints at Barcelona and Chelsea but my touch and comfort on the ball was lacking and his material was exactly what i was needed. I was a top level college player but knew there were levels beyond this and i was hungry to be the best i can be. Cooper Test/stamina/fitness- no problem.....Video Analysis and tactical analysis.....no worries. Resilience, resolve, toughness.......the easy part. What i needed was a better touch, better feel for the ball, better timing, proprioception and symmetry.
I was 20 years old and felt like i was going back to school- football school! Wiel was a perfectionist. Just when I thought i was doing it right he would correct me and point out that I was too stiff and rigid and not smooth enough and then I was back to work polishing my skills trying to get comfortable with the new material. I didn't writes any of it down. I simply did the exercises until it was stored in my football memory bank. Its probably why he hired myself and my brother to assist him. Not being able to do the movements to his expectation of quality wasn't fun but to impress the man was something i was eager to do because he had such high standards and was held in such high regard. He wrote a book which he showed us in the car on the way to JFK airport and there were some videos of his work which had some of the material but I never saw them or read them until many years after he taught me. I later heard from Michel Mommertz that current Liverpool FC Asst. Manager Pepijn Linders always had this book in hand while he was working under Moniz at PSV Eindhoven.
Most of what I learned from him was never put in the book or video. It's a bit like getting taught by a master musician and playing with them and then being asked if I bought the book or video when i was a part of making the actual material itself. Why would i do that when i learned from the master himself?! I went over every page with him, sitting after lunch and dinner with Simon and Michel in New York and Dubai going over materials in minute details. Looking back it was a tremendous honor and opportunity. After declining several college soccer scholarship offers, we returned to London and to our delight our efforts were rewarded with an invite by Wiel to work in Dubai at the Al Wasl club along with Michel. A few days later 2 KLM tickets to Dubai arrived in the mail and we were off!
Gary and Simon Ireland became assistants to Wiel Coerver after impressing Wiel and his assistant Michel Mommertz while coaching with them at a soccer camp in New York. Wiel hired them to assist him in Dubai UAE at Al Wasl
Despite only having played only one game of any kind in the entire previous year and instead focused on self practice, due to our already ingrained discipline and drive and material from my father and reinforced and accelerated by Wiel's influence, upon arriving in Australia we were immediately headlined as the main players for the Queensland State team (Queensland is a landmass 1/5 the size of Europe and 4.5x bigger than California), which hosted the 'Super Six' event which included English Premier League/1st Division Champions Arsenal FC featuring stars Alan Smith and Michael Thomas, scorers of goals at Liverpool FC's home Anfield which crowned Arsenal league champions that season, alongside Lee Dixon and David Roecastle. Paul Stewart, Trevor Morley and Stewart Pearce of Manchester City. Des Walker and Nigel Clough of Nottingham Forest also featured. New South Wales and Victoria State teams featured Australian national team legends, current Australian National Team Coach Graham Arnold (Roda, Liege, Charleroi, Breda), Robbie Slater (Anderlecht, Lens, Blackburn, West Ham, Southampton, Wolves) and future Australian National Team coach Frank Farina (Brugge. Bari, Strasbourg, Lille). Simon and I were also selected to play 3 games in Fiji against Fiji, with me starting for the team on 3 occasions, however Simon, after being touted the best player in Queensland was injured before the tour and unable to play. With Simon I was being considered the best young talent in the State, and among best in the country. I received the highest player rating performance scores for my match performances of any player in the entire State, with Simon second in rankings (source-Queensland Soccer Magazine). I was vastly improved technically since leaving for Europe but i was also very fit, and was recorded as being the fittest player on the Queensland State team (source: Queensland Soccer Magazine), which I'm proud of given i wasn't athletic or fast player until my latter teenage years. Our immediate selection to the Queensland state outdoor and indoor teams was unheard of and made headlines because we were young players and played in only 1 club game before being selected. I put on a demonstration of Wiel's material for my Queensland State men's team in the hallway of the hotel in Fiji one evening because they wanted to see how i warmed up and self trained and were curious what i did that allowed me to improve so quickly. It wasn't long before Football Queensland (QSF) asked us to go to do a camp in outback Queensland.
With the help of our father Victor and with permission from Wiel Coerver we introduced Wiel Coerver’s material to Australia for the first time through an invite by NSW Soccer Federation Director of Coaching David Lee, (coach of Harry Kewell), and made the first presentation of Wiel Coerver's material to leading figures in Australian football including state and club coaches and administrative staff as well as Bernie Mandic, the future agent for Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka. We demonstrated ball mastery and speed of footwork coordination material in street clothes on stage in front of a transfixed crowd- they had never witnessed this before. Shortly after we brokered the sale of ‘Coerver 1-2-3’ coaching series video between SLS/Philips Lighting Company and Australias 'Mr Soccer’ Les Murray of SBSTV, profoundly impacting the Australian soccer youth development and commercial landscape. We also received great publicity from Australia's best soccer reporter Mike Cockerill of the Sydney Morning Herald. Les Murray was very supportive, giving us volunteer editing jobs at SBSTV which was just around the corner, which became content on live television each evening on 'The World Game', at the time Australia's premier soccer television show. Soon afterwards Coerver Coaching (note-Gary and Simon were and never have been involved with the Coerver Coaching business) formalized its agreement with Football New South Wales making it the official youth development curriculum. We owe Les Murray a big favor for salvaging our careers and supporting us through some dark days. Another long story for another time!
The same year we demonstrated the very first training session Wiel Coerver’s material to New Zealand football at the invite of the National Director of Coaching Terry Conley for the Canterbury Soccer Association and New Zealand Soccer Association and on the basis of my ability as a player and experience as a demonstrator of what was the worlds cutting edge technical training material, i was hired to be the lead demonstrator for Hubert Vogelsinger in Santa Barbara, Wisconsin and Connecticut- once again, another long story!