Brighton & Hove Albion under-23 assistant coach Shannon Ruth applauded the ten-man squad that returned from Hong Kong earlier this week for the professionalism they showed during the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens.
The Seagulls played five matches in the competition to reach the semi-finals of the Main Shield, but a 4-2 defeat to Leicester City ended Albion’s journey in the 16-team tournament.
Ruth and John Morling took charge of the side for matches across Saturday and Sunday, and the former returned home delighted by the high standards maintained by the players in Asia.
He said, “One thing we were very pleased with as staff was the levels of our professionalism, our togetherness and our all-round approach to the trip.
“That’s a big factor when you go to a big tournament of this type — so many miles away from home, with jet lag involved and rules and regulations of a tournament that are foreign to us.
“With the constant demand of the five days that we’re together, you need that togetherness and level of focus.
“One thing that Simon [Rusk] is really passionate about is good standards every day. When we went out to the tournament, that didn’t change.
“They continued their standards and professionalism, but most importantly, they represented the club in the best way possible, and that was a level of success for us as staff.”
Albion qualified from the group stage in second place, beating Kerry Yau Yee League Select and drawing with Newcastle United, and Ruth reflected on the team’s strengths and weaknesses during the tournament.
“You’re looking at seven-v-seven on just under a full-size pitch, so there’s no doubt that you need athleticism in your team, one-v-one capability and good team morale.
“With the nature of the games, you need players who are going to give everything, and then come off to allow their mate to give everything too.
“It’s about being happy to go all out attack, because one counter can make all the difference. When you turn the ball over and go past two or three players, you’ve got to finish off the move.
“It was an interesting one for myself and John — in all five games that we played in, we managed to control the games with good possession and there was some really patient build-up play.
“Goals were probably the one area that we couldn’t deliver on. Defensively we were patient and solid, but it was the fine margins that cost us."
After finishing third in the Premier League 2 Division 1 and competing in Hong Kong, Ruth urged the players to enjoy their summer break but also keep next season’s challenges in sight.
“It’s about letting their bodies and minds recover from a tough season where they performed to a good level.
“We were at a stage of being able to win the league with two games left, so that would have taken a lot out of them.
“They’ve got to enjoy their break but also have half an eye on pre-season, because they now have a new manager to impress and the season starts again.
“What’s been has been and it’s now about the next thing — they need to be in the best-possible condition to take on their next challenge.”