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He’s got the whole world at his feet

PUBLISHED: 12:48 06 February 2008 | UPDATED: 11:30 01 July 2010

When Mike Delaney isn t swapping notes with some of football s most famous names, he s inspiring a new generation of future - and more skilful - stars, discovers Alex Leach.

When Mike Delaney isn't swapping notes with some of football's most

famous names, he's inspiring a new generation of future - and more skilful - stars, discovers Alex Leach.

THERE are not many people who can claim to have encountered the greats in world football and made them look like cumbersome clowns, but Mike Delaney is certainly one of them.

As one of the world's top football choreographers, Orpington's Delaney gets to spend some of his working hours mixing it with the best in the business on TV adverts shown across the globe.

The 'rigours' of his job means that he meets all of the modern-day icons such as Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry to name but a few, teaches them a few flicks and tidy tricks and then the cheque's in the post.

It hardly sounds like a bad way to earn a decent crust, although there must be a time when the professional freestyler is star-struck by the sheer talent around him?

"It is a bit surreal," Delaney admits. "When I come back home, I do think: 'Cor that was a strange, last few days' working with those guys.' But what surprises me more than anything is the way that many of them are complimentary towards me. In the past, guys like Cristiano Ronaldo have said: 'Right Mike, have you got any new tricks you can show me?' That's something I don't expect.

"I don't know how it would be on the training field, but in that commercial environment, I seem to have their respect and get on quite well with them."

Coaching the crème de la crème in fancy footwork has undoubted kudos and showing them new skills, which they initially struggle to master, would leave most people with an inflated opinion of their own dexterity.

But Delaney admits that what he can do in a confined space bares no comparison with what his world-renowned students regularly get up to week in, week out.

"It's a short burst of confidence, but - at the same time - I know and appreciate just as much as anyone that these are great footballers and I cannot compete with them in that sense. They are fantastic players and the freestyle is just something slightly different," the 30-year-old added. "It is still an exciting and fun part of football to me."

Delaney, like most of the sport's followers, clearly has a lot of admiration for the superstars he comes across on set and counts a Portuguese whizzkid and an English legend among the best he's seen so far.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player," the ex-pro footballer said. "He's the sort of person who has come in for a bit of stick after the England v Portugal game in the 2006 World Cup, but my personal impression of him has been that he's a decent guy. I get on with him really well and he's incredible with his skills because it's very difficult to have the confidence to do what he does at that level.

"I was also impressed with Sir Bobby Charlton. I'd seen Sir Geoff Hurst and some of the other footballers from that era before and you could tell that they had obviously been great players, but - with Sir Bobby - he still looked good. You could imagine him playing in veterans' football today and looking like one of the best players."

England's all-time record goalscorer Charlton, with 49 goals from an impressive 106 caps, certainly achieved a lot in a Three Lions jersey and even nifty mover Delaney is now getting, albeit different, international recognition of his own.

He's involved with Graeme Dell's national team in Futsal (a five-a-side format delimited by lines with no boards, walls and a smaller ball) as they prepare for World Cup qualifiers against Hungary, Poland and Macedonia this month.

However, despite just coming off the back of an encouraging win (8-7) and draw (2-2) against Greece last December, Delaney concedes they are hardly world beaters at the moment.

"The thing that's against us is that the England team only train once a month, so it's hard to compete against teams like Portugal who are training almost every day and who have been playing it since they were young," he explained. "We've got guys in the England team who are not playing Futsal regularly. They are playing at a pretty high standard of 11-a-side and then they are just coming together and trying to play this different game, whereas these other countries have known how to play the game from a young age. They're good footballers, but we're just trying to learn how to play Futsal all of the time.

"Hopefully, at the same time, we can generate enough interest for other players coming through because until we get to the stage where everyone knows what the game is and kids are playing it, I don't think we are ever going to be able to compete properly on the international stage."

So, that's a skills sorcerer and a fully-fledged international nicely controlled into an already busy schedule, but equally as important to the man himself is working with youngsters at his Skills Academy in the Bromley borough.

"I believe that we can create skilled players in this country," he enthused. "People still tend to think: 'Oh no, that's for the Brazilians, the Portuguese or the Italians', but there's absolutely no reason why we cannot develop really highly skilled players over here.

"It's essential that very good coaches are working with children at a young age. Everyone that's involved in football - whether it's parents or the guys who take charge of the Sunday teams - they all have to realise children have to get lots of touches of the ball and be confident with it.

"You can go to so many local Sunday matches where the kids almost look like they are frightened to have the ball too long because somebody might shout at them if they make a mistake.

"It's just a case of everyone working together to understand that the technique is the really important thing for the children to get at a young age."

The Skills Academy offer coaching courses for boys and girls aged from three to 16 at all the Bromley Mytime sports and leisure centres in the borough. Bookings are now being taken for the February half-term soccer camps. For details, call: 01689 828385 or 07736-319-244 or visit their website: www.skillsacademyltd.com.

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