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The Beauty of the Hook Turn in Soccer

It is a story they still talk about.  There are two minutes to go.  Victory sees the promotion push continue – lose or draw and they will be relying on other teams around them to drop points.  These are the days before the back pass rule.  It is common place for a team hanging on, to waste minutes just passing the ball between defender and goalkeeper, who could pick the ball up in those times. A hook turn is an alternative.


Readers who remember such dark and distant days will recall just how tedious this could make the final twenty minutes of any match.  We might complain now about coaches who tell their sides to ‘park the bus’, to sit deep and just absorb pressure, hoping to sneak a goal on the break or from a set piece.  Those teams are roller coasters of fun compared to the days pre-1992.


If our memories have been tinged pink by the rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia, just look back at the 1990 World Cup, surely the most unexciting festival of football in the history of the sport.


Charlton Athletic – Tottenham Hotspur

Back to our match.  The ball is played back to the Charlton Athletic goalkeeper.  They are 2-1 ahead but their opponents, Carlisle United (this really is the cutting edge of the professional game) are exhausted. Their season is over.  They sit comfortably in mid table, and even though they will slip in their final matches they will be safe.  They have nothing to play for.  The crowd boo, but there are not many there.  The only noise comes from the small contingent of hardened Charlton Athletic supporters; they are loving it.  Carlisle is as far away from the London club’s home as it is possible to be without crossing the border into Scotland.  Not many have made the long trip – those that have will not be home much before midnight.  They don’t care, provided they hang on.  ‘We are the Champions’, Queen’s perfect, if exaggerated in this case, anthem for the football stadium rings out a little, but still easily silencing the odd call of ‘United’.  To be honest, most of the few Carlisle supporters that turned up for this one are already tramping the streets back to their homes.


The Charlton keeper rolls the ball out to his full back.  This is an experienced player, coming to the end of his career.  Terry Naylor is a legend of the British game, who played for Tottenham Hotspur across three decades.  He has two nicknames, Nutter and Meathook.  Say no more.  Naylor is still a good player though.  He dribbles forward slowly, the return back pass cut off.  Space opens up before him and he crosses the half way line.  He is shadowed but not pressured and reaches the edge of the Carlisle box.  This seasoned pro considers his options, turns and forty-five seconds later, the ball is back in his keeper’s arms.  Everybody has had enough.  Including the ref.  The final whistle blows.


This story dates back to the 1980-81 season but is relevant for our blog.  Because, supporters say, Naylor’s return journey came about following a perfect exposition of a crucial skill – the hook turn.


The ability to turn quickly, and with complete control, is an important attribute for any player, wherever they play on the park.  Even keepers, with their growing role with the ball at their feet, need to be able to do it.  A good turn retains possession of the ball, allows a change in direction of play for a pass or dribble, gives time for team mates to arrive in support and can often buy a foul if a free kick is required.  There are several techniques which can be used.  The Cruyff turn, the Stop turn, the drag back, but the hook turn is the one simplest to learn.  It comes in two forms, the inside hook, and the outside hook.


The Inside Hook

  1. Dribble under close control, with the ball near to the foot.
  2. Knock the ball forward a short distance with the laces.
  3. Bend the knees to lower the centre of gravity and facilitate a tight turn.
  4. Stretch the foot forward and slightly beyond the ball.
  5. Turn the ankle so the foot faces inwards, the instep closest to the leading edge of the ball.
  6. Pull the ball backwards with this foot.
  7. The momentum of the body will naturally go beyond the ball, making an important barrier between the ball and the opposing player. As it does, rotate the hips to complete a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn.
  8. Kick off the rear-most foot to give impetus, keeping the arms wide for balance and protection of the ball
  9. Move onto the ball and knock it forward with a good first touch.
  10. This touch could be a side-foot pass to a player behind, a longer touch to allow running with the ball into space or a close control to keep options open.

Players should practice the inside hook turn using both feet so they can employ it with flexibility.


The Outside Hook

This version of the turn is the more aggressive of the two.  Whereas the inside hook is often used as a means of retaining possession or to facilitate a pass backwards into a player under less pressure, the outside hook is frequently used as the first stage of a trick to beat an opponent, although it can still be used as a more fundamental means of retaining possession.

  1. Advance dribbling using the outside of the boot to propel the ball forward.
  2. Ensure that the body remains between the opposing defender and the ball to prevent a tackle.
  3. Drop the shoulder as a part of a trick to beat a defender.
  4. Bend the knees and hook the ball backwards with the outside of the boot.
  5. Turn the hips and plant the feet, kicking off the rearmost foot.
  6. To use this turn to beat a player two options can be employed:
  7. Option One:
    1. Keep the body position low
    2. Use the outside of the foot to drive the ball infield from the wing
    3. Accelerate away from the defender
  8. Option Two:
    1. The defender will have moved forward on the first turn, so will be slightly off balance
    2. Keep the body low and wide, to offer greatest protection to the ball
    3. Repeat the hook to take the ball back in its original direction
    4. Knock the ball longer past the defender, who is now facing the wrong way, and sprint onto the ball

The hook turn is relatively easy to learn, and highly effective.  There are some handy coaching examples below:




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