IFAF Europe Qualifying Tournament: Q&A with Great Britain Head Coach Mike Callan

This weekend begins the second International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Europe Qualifying Tournament in Worcester, England. 

Sixways Stadium in Worcester is hosting the international fixtures that features the national American football teams from Great Britain, Russia, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands

The GB Lions are the Great Britain national team and will face the Russian national team in the first round on Friday. The winner get a chance to qualify for the European Championships in 2018!

American Football International spoke with the Great Britain Head Coach Mike Callan.

1. What are your thoughts on the team? How are they as a group?

Callan: I feel really positive and encourage by the group of guys we have put together. We have really tried hard to amass the best group of talent that we have in the UK from a number of different teams and put out a team capable of competing at the highest level. As a group hey have come together well and have started to gel at the right time. At each practice they compete hard and push each other. They have really created a competition at every position and there are a number of positions on the field where guys can really make plays and take a hold of a game. We are hoping that our prep is on point and we peak this weekend. Like I said before the team is really pushing to succeed. It’s a great bunch a guys to be around and talk to and just watch get after it and play football. They fly around and are focused on the task at hand but have a lot of fun doing it.

2. Are there any individuals that stood out to you? Any specific top players on the team we should be sure to keep an eye out for?

Callan: Well, yeah, all forty-five really. I mean, even the seventy-five man roster we cut down from had a number of players who can play. Shame is we can only take 45. I mean each player on the team you can keep an eye on because they can influence a game. If I had to choose a few I would say Jerome Allen at QB is definitely a guy to keep an eye on. He has come in to the program and can really make things happen with his arm. Our RBs are a huge asset with Dwayne, Hope, Temi and Deji all being capable. The WR core is deep and has play-makers. But, of course it all starts with the offensive line. The big guys are the leaders up from. Guys like Victor Bama and DJ can make plays. The defense is deep and diverse as well. I would say keep an eye on Josh Vines on the D Line as he can get after it. In the secondary, I would keep an eye on the corners. And I think the line-backing core is as deep as I can remember with Ariel Mofondo, Alasdir Jarvis, Alex Haldane and a young guy who gets after it in Jonell Pelle. I know you said only a few but I love all the guys and think the UK should come and watch them all play together against other nations and not only against each other.

3. How have you prepared the team for this game? Are you practicing now? If not, when?

Callan: We’ve been preparing all year and had the last two weeks off to rest. I said it before as the guys had given us a tough decision on exactly who to choose. We have had some good camps in the run up to the tournament, but we have been working all year and making sure we are ready for Friday night and Russia.


4. Have you brought in any coaches for these games? If so, who? What do they bring to the team?

Callan: The coaching staff has changed slightly. This year, as Nick Rockell moved to Canada, we hired Paul Cooper for the RBs. We brought in Toby Chesters as well to work with the group. The defensive staff has stayed intact and Tony Athersmith is the Offensive Coordinator now. I have moved to coordinate Special Teams with the help of Aston Ellington. The biggest add has been Thomas Kharchi as Operations Manager. We’ve been working nonstop to make sure all is set for the weekend. He’s been a lot of help.

5. Can you tell us your thoughts on Team Russia?

Callan: Well, we’ve done our scouting and we know Russia is going to be a big, physical team and be ready to bring the game to us. They have traveled a long way and we know they are going to bring their best. We’ve set out our game plan and the guys are prepared. All we need to happen now is the National Anthem, the coin flip and kickoff.

6. What does it mean to Team GB to play in this qualifying tourney? Can you talk about the goals of the GB National team program?

Callan: We always aspire to play and coach at the top level. We have set our long term sites on Group A and to return there. We have laid out a plan of action to get there and this is the first step. To get there we are treating this as an extended knock-out tournament, win or go home. The first and only concern at this time is Russia. I guess that explains out goal of returning to Group A pretty neatly. All the prep is done and this is the business end of things. In order to attain our goal, our first step is on Friday night in Worcester at 7pm. All our eyes are focused on executing the game plan versus Russia and taking that first step.

John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.