Top four tips for wing play

Oxford United winger James Henry gives his top tips for being successful on the wing. He has played in over 450 games in professional football scoring 80 goals.

1. Diligence

Coaches should always ensure that their players are diligent. It’s so important because football isn’t always about going forward and attacking teams. It is equally vital for players to track back and help defenders out. I’ve been guilty myself of getting lost in the attacking side of the game and it can be easy to lose an opposing full-back, but if your players aren’t respecting the defensive aspects of their game, they can become a major liability to the whole team.

2. Crossing

Crossing is obviously a big part of a winger’s armoury because strikers thrive on a good supply line. Practising that part of a winger’s game will always help him learn and create his own technique. Every player is different in that respect, and obviously depends on where on the pitch your target man is, but let your players find their own methods, because instinct and reactions play a huge part in getting the best out of a wide man.

3. Goalscoring

Every player, from centre-halves to wingers, needs to provide a threat in the final third, because goalscoring cannot always be left to the strikers! Teams I’ve played in have always rehearsed shooting at goal – even the keepers! I’d always advise coaches to impress on their players the value of being able to fire the ball with pace and precision. And when not in possession, the ability of players to know when to make a run and where to arrive at in the box is essential. It has to be taught over time, and players are never too young to learn.

4. Versatility

Players should always be looking to keep full-backs on their toes by switching between different styles of play. If a coach tells a player to always go down the touchline, his opposing number will soon have him in his pocket, so cutting inside and feinting are tools every coach should use to keep opponents guessing throughout the game. Mixing it up can be crucial in beating a defender, because they will always try to show your player onto his weaker foot. If that weaker foot has been trained and can offer a decent threat itself, opposition players have a problem they maybe didn’t expect.

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