Passing forward with a purpose

This session aims to help players understand the importance of passing forward when the opportunity is there to break the lines of defence.

Recognising when to pass forward, sideways and backwards is a core skill and something that must be practised. After all, the more correct decisions a player makes in these situations, the greater his value to the team.


Up to 30×20 yards
Balls, bibs, cones, poles, goals
Number of Players
Up to 10
Session time
Session 10-15mins,
Development 10-15mins,
Game 15+mins

What do I get the players to do?

The session is comprised of small-sided games. These are fast, exciting, match-realistic, and increase players’ knowledge of when to pass forward. We rotate all players regularly.

4v4 goals

We have four small goals in a 20×20-yard square (1). In front of each there is a three-yard zone only one defender can occupy. He cannot be tackled, but helps build attacks in what is essentially a 4v3. Any player can score, and which point that team restarts from the home end. Any shot that goes wide or out to the side transfers possession to the other team.


• In 4v4 goals, blues pass the ball out using direct forward passes, spying a chance to thread through to the front man, who has the choice of two goals to aim at

4v4 gates

We now remove the goals and create six gates across the area, each three yards wide. The defender is now neutral, playing for the side in possession, and behind the gates. This multidirectional practice speeds up the frequency of through-pass options – the neutral a scoring target in one instance (2a), then a player who passes the ball out of defence in the next (2b).


• In 4v4 gates, the neutral player begins the move, working with the team in possession in what is now a multidirectional practice


• Because yellows can attack either end, they work a quick passing move and successfully feed the ball back to the neutral target man

4v4 gates plus goals

We now extend the area by five-yards at each end, and add full-size goals. Each team attacks a designated end (3a).


• In 4v4 gates plus goals, the neutral player now receives the pass, turns and shoots at goal

Keepers begin, and when the ball comes to a neutral player, he now turns and shoots. If he scores, the other keeper restarts play. If not, the unbeaten keeper plays out (3b).


• When the keeper saves, possession is turned over and the ball is immediately played out for yellows to attack the other goal

What are the key things to look out for?

Players need to be aware of the opportunity to pass forward… to spot the moment and penetrate with a pass, but patience is key. The best way to find a passing option is to keep the opposition moving, and the best way to do that is to keep the ball moving.

Passes need to be crisp and on the ground, with good technique, and team mates supporting at every opportunity.

How do I progress the session?

We can increase the difficulty by reducing the area size, limiting the number of touches or introducing more players. We can also dictate a minimum number of passes before the ball is sent through to the end man.

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