This Saturday 9 June the Tamworth Phoenix host the Oslo Vikings at Pack Meadow in their third fixture of the Northern European Football League!
DblCoverage.com caught up with Phoenix Head Coach Jason Scott ahead of this weekend’s big game:
Hi Coach, and thanks for talking with us again! It’s been an incredibly chalk and cheese summer for the Phoenix so far – dominance in the domestic games, compared to having a much tougher time of things in your European fixtures. What can you tell us about the differences between your opponents in these two streams of competition?
The score lines in our BAFA fixtures only reflect one side of the games; all three teams that we have played are extremely capable and are not short on ability. Manchester have now adapted to life in the Premier division and will continue to be successful, Merseyside are much better than their 0-3 record suggests, and Edinburgh had some terrible luck with their roster and injuries. All are great teams, but we managed to execute better in each of those games, and in some instances got lucky with some bounces.
However, there is a huge step up in quality and depth in the NEFL, and we need to make sure that we hold each other to high standards, and make sure we are accountable. We still need to block better and tackle better, but the windows of opportunity are still there – they’re just much smaller.
One thing that isn’t smaller in Europe is the size of the Offensive and Defensive lines! That’s an area we need to win on Saturday; our rushing attack in the UK is unrivalled, but it’s struggled a little against Copenhagen and Carlstad. I’ll be looking at the Offensive Line and Defensive Line to bounce back and really compete.
I was proud of how we fought against Carlstad; we managed to move the ball on them and held them to a couple of field goals. I look at the chances we missed, and the assignments we blew, and the game could have been much closer. Statistically, we outgained them on offence, but we gave up too many special teams and penalty yards, that was the real difference.
We’re looking forward to Oslo, it looks like their season has mirrored ours in many ways; running up some big scores in the Norwegian league, whilst struggling in Europe. We improved our performance from Copenhagen to Carlstad, and hope we can improve again this weekend.
So having seen both the best Northern Europe and Britain have to offer in the past few weeks, what would you say the key differences are? Is there hope for Britball to close the gap on the quality of product some of the European Leagues are producing?
On the face of it, it’s easy to say that our domestic game is an inferior product to that of our European neighbours, but it’s much more complicated than that.
I actually think our domestic skill players are on a par with some of those we’ve faced so far, I look at the British athletes who are thriving in European leagues, and that seems to back-up my thoughts. Their lines are much bigger and faster, sure, but I think we have some very talented linemen in the UK as well.
I’ve noticed a lot of the ‘old guard’ complaining that it was much better in their day; with stadiums and imports and attendances. Whilst shiny facilities are nice, I disagree that we need to bring in US players or pay athletes to develop the British game; we need to develop our youth programs and our coaching in the UK to get us back to being truly competitive. We don’t need to throw money at the short term, we need to really invest in the long-term future of the game.
The Danish and Swedish leagues have 11-a-side competitions for U15, U17 and U19 athletes, and many start much younger than that. When we played against Copenhagen and Carlstad, it was their domestic players that made the difference; Philip Juhlin and Jacob Dahre were next-level on the Crusaders offence, whilst Christian Kuylenstejrna led them in tackles. All of them are Swedish domestic players who have been playing the game from an early age. Dayton Winn was a phenomenal player in Copenhagen, but he was running behind an entirely Danish Offensive Line.
I’m really excited about the appointment of the new BAFA board; we don’t need new leagues, or fancy stadiums just yet. We need to figure out how to get more players playing the sport, how to involve them at a younger age, and how to keep them in the sport. Coaching plays a huge part in that; and whilst our annual convention continues to grow, it’s not well attended enough. We need to upskill our coaches and develop the grassroots to allow the British game to reach its potential.
“I’m really excited about the appointment of the new BAFA board; we don’t need new leagues, or fancy stadiums just yet.
We need to figure out how to get more players playing the sport, how to involve them at a younger age, and how to keep them in the sport.”
How’s the Phoenix roster looking ahead of this Saturday’s game? I assume the 45-man NEFL restrictions mean you’re likely having to select a slightly different roster for each European outing based on player availability and fitness?
As is typical with the British game, we’ve had players who have got prior commitments, and are unable to play, but it has enabled us to look at the roster and bring some players in.
We’re going to miss Tom Levick on the offensive line, but we have some very capable interior linemen who are able to step up and excel. Jon Maisey played a very complete game at Center on Sunday, and I expect him to slot in and be the player and leader that I know he can be.
We’re also able to add some new players to the roster who haven’t featured so far; Lewis Freeman and Will Triccas are both stand out University players who will add dynamism in the secondary, and we’re also able to bring in Phil Allred who shone on Sunday. He’ll replace the injured Pete Davies.
So, looking ahead to this weekend’s game, the Oslo Vikings are in a similar situation to yourselves – currently without a win in NEFL. Thoughts on how they’ll compare to the Phoenix?
As is typical from the teams we’ve seen in Europe, the Vikings have a huge offensive line which could cause our front some troubles if we’re not organised, especially with the size of RB they had. We have been working on our tackling a lot over the past few weeks, especially because Merseyside caused us some issues with their inside run game. Sezer is a good quarterback with excellent escapability – we’ll have to coral him in the pocket and force him to beat us with his arm
Defensively they’re very quick – they look a lot like us on defence, only with more size up front. Again, their line is sizable and talented, so we have to make sure we work together to establish the run. Knutsen at Linebacker is long and rangy and seems to always be around the play, whilst Gjermstad sets the tone up front.
And finally, this is the second NEFL fixture you’ve hosted at Pack Meadow. The Phoenix always seem to play their best in front of a big home crowd, so I assume you guys are eager to get a lot of Britball fans down to the game this weekend?
The weather is forecast to be beautiful, so if you’ve got nothing to do on Saturday (or even if you have), make sure you come down and support the Phoenix and British football. It’s so important for the Britball community to lift one another up, and not push each other down; we are all in this together, and we – at the Phoenix – want to drive success in the British game. If you love football, make sure you book the afternoon off and get down to Pack Meadow!
We’d love to have a loud and passionate crowd down – it made such a difference in the semi and final last year, and I think the late kick-off (and poor weather) put some people off the Carlstad game.
Entrance is only a fiver (with kids going free), and we have our friends from Football America down with their travelling shop. The bar will be fully stocked, the concessions stand will be bustling – there really is no excuse!
It definitely sounds like a great afternoon for any fans of the British game!
The Tamworth Phoenix host the Oslo Vikings this Saturday, kicking off at 3pm.
You can find out more about the fixture on the Facebook event: