A football training scheme for Teesside youngsters is proving to be a great hit in the local area.

Mini Messi’s is a football training programme for children in Teesside.

Provided by DF Coaching, the programme is offered to children of all abilities aged between two and six.

The players also have the opportunity to progress into the ‘Player Development Programme’, with a final aim to get youngsters into local teams.

Some of the youth teams coached by DF Coaching have even played Junior Champions League matches.

Formed in 2010 by former Middlesbrough Academy player Dan Fowler, the appropriately named DF Coaching has become a proud part of the local community and is now a reputable company for kid’s football.


Dan Fowler playing football
Dan Fowler (right) in action


Dan explained how he got into football coaching.

He said: “At first I started to volunteer helping out at a grass roots football team (Leven) and quite enjoyed the coaching side of things.”

“I then got offered a coaching job in La Manga in Spain by my old York City manager shortly after my release from Boro.

“I saw it as a good opportunity and quickly realised whilst over there that I wanted to coach.

“I felt that I had the right mix of why things had gone both right and wrong with my own football and could help the kids out with that.”

Mini Messi’s

DF Coaching’s Mini Messi’s programme aims to improve gross motor skills, social skills, technical development and decision making.

On the Mini Messi’s programme, Dan said “Around seven or eight years ago I started a programme called Tiny Tots for three to five year olds.”


The logo for the Mini Messi's programme
The logo for the Mini Messi’s programme

Dan said: “I rebranded it ‘Mini Messi’s’ to make it a bit more catchy a few years back, to go in line with the greatest player to ever play football – Lionel Messi. Now we have over one hundred kids attending weekly sessions at this age.”

“We have found that players coming out of this group are at a good level technically, and are socially very comfortable around their peers and in their school life.”

Development Leagues

DF Coaching also host an internal development league – which involves organised games in a structured league, allowing children to get match practice.

Dan said: “The kids train one, two or three times per week and play matches in our internally ran mini league on a Sunday.”

“This is the next step for the kids before we then look at placing them into grass roots teams.”

Champions League Football

Dan is hoping for success stories from his teams in the coming years.

“We have had around 35 Boys and 10 girls sign for professional Academies in the last 6 years,” he said.

“Our U10 team got to the last 32 of the Junior Champions League in Vienna, eventually getting knocked out 1-0 by Atlético Madrid.

“Most of those kids are now in Academies and looking to generate a career from the game. Time will tell.”


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