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30 August 2018

Academy Manager Tom Pell pens an overview of the all the latest news, results and fixtures from the Club’s Academy.

I’m never quite sure where to start when it comes to informing everyone of what our Academy has been up to, as there is so much to tell!

August always seems to be a very busy time of the season, as the U18 and U16’s squads start their respective League campaigns in line with the first team’s fixture schedule and pre-season now seems a distant memory.

The schoolboy program is always extremely busy as we try and ensure we maximise the contact time we have with the players whilst they are on their summer holidays.

It also gives our coaching and recruitment staff plenty of opportunities to view our trialists that have been scouted throughout several summer tournaments, festivals, showcase games and see if we feel they have the potential to become a CUFC Academy player.

I’ll put you in the picture as to some of the clubs our schoolboy ages have played against in the last month alone, and you may start to get an insight into the opportunities for our players.

Our Schoolboy age groups have played: Manchester City, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Charlton Athletic, Ipswich Town, Leicester City and Colchester United in one off fixtures.

Several age groups have also played in festivals and tournaments hosted by Tottenham Hotspur and Birmingham City which have included clubs such as Watford, Cheltenham Town, Wrexham and Burton Albion.

Our U10, U11, U13 and U14 Squads all won their respective tournaments at Birmingham City with the Blues, Exeter, Bournemouth and the U’s taking part. We don’t often feel it is right to publish all of the scores and results, but we do occasionally take our boys to tournaments with the result bearing more importance than usual, so that they get exposed to full competitive football from an early age.

Several of our U14’s and U15’s spent the bank holiday weekend at a festival in Bristol under Luke Chadwick’s management and produce some pleasing performances against Bristol City, Bristol Rovers and Home Farm from Dublin.

Hopefully from the above you can start to see how active the schoolboy program is throughout the summer holidays. We continue to ensure we provide the players with a variety of fixtures to meet their individual and collective needs towards their own individual development plans. What isn’t often mentioned are the number of fixtures we play against local soccer academies, grassroots clubs and trial teams as well, so we can again give them a full range of challenges.

The staff have spent a lot of time in the off season to try creating a model which provides the best games program in the country for our players. We are not saying we have achieved it, but that’s what we are working towards.

Do the players play in enough games where they dominate the ball? Do they have enough games where they spend large parts without the ball? Are all games on lovely pitches? What should the pitch size be? What should the numbers be? Should we play periods in the games where the numbers are over loaded/under loaded? Should the boys always be in their own age group?

There are a lot of details that go into planning and preparing these fixtures and something that has been in place for a number of years now. These are only a few of the considerations we may take when planning our games program against the biggest clubs in Europe to the local grassroots clubs.

We always want to stay ahead of the game and ensure we have forward thinking staff and therefore the players will hopefully follow suit.

The schoolboys Category 3 games program starts very soon as the lads return to school and we start September by hosting the Premier League U15 Floodlit Cup Qualifiers.

We will face Luton Town, Coventry City, Burton Albion and Millwall whereby the team who comes out on top will qualify for the Premier League Floodlit competition and could end up playing a host of Premier League clubs. We wish the boys well for that weekend’s qualifiers.

Moving away from the Schoolboys for a moment, as mentioned the U18’s and U16’s respective leagues are in full flow, with the league and cup games coming thick and fast.

Jimmy Unwin is in his third spell at the Club but his first as Youth Team Coach and he is just starting to see his ideas come to fruition. The players are now starting to perform game plans and strategies a little more consistently and this is key for the boys who are doing all they can to try and gain a professional contract come the end of the season.

The boys sit mid-table after four league games and are through to the second round of the Football League Youth Alliance Cup after beating last season’s winners Luton Town with an impressive performance, having drawn with them in the league three days earlier.

The squad know that they haven’t perhaps quite reached the heights of what they are capable of just yet, and although performance levels have been pretty high, we all know we can turn these performances into more convincing results with more productivity in both boxes. That is their challenge over the coming weeks, and it is really exciting each week to see how they go about their work against some tough opposition.

As we are now focusing on our eldest Academy players, it is also worth mentioning we are still doing all we can to ensure certain players transition from academy football to first team football is as smooth as is it can be.

As part of this, several of our young professionals are gaining first team football at their respective loan clubs. We have been out to watch and assess the early developments of Lee Watkins in games for Mildenhall Town, Sam Squire at Cambridge City, Jordan Norville Williams at Royston, Finley Iron at St Neots and Matt Foy at Chelmsford City. This is something that is regularly assessed and evaluated by our first team and Academy staff to ensure we are doing all we can for the boys to reach their potential and try to accelerate their progression prior to possible CUFC first team opportunities.

I am yet to mention the staff as rightly so, we should always focus on the players, but one thing that we are trying to continue, is our ability as a group of staff to collaborate and work together as a team to maximise the expertise that each individual has to pass onto our players and parents of a whole variety of ages.

As part of our Staff Development Plan, we all took part in a Team Building Day at ‘Go Ape’ to try and overcome some fears one or two of us may have had whilst undertaking the ‘Tree Top Adventure’.

We are sometimes guilty of being too busy that we forget to seek advice, help, and assistance with certain aspects of our roles, so any type of Team Building, we feel is extremely beneficial. That way, we can all ensure that our expertise are used in the best way possible to maximise our program!

‘The Strength of the Team is the Team’ is one of many boards up at the Training Ground and if we as staff can ensure we are the same as we often ask the players to be, then I’m sure it will make for higher levels of productivity on and off the pitch.

I hope this update gives everyone a brief insight into what has been going on in the Academy throughout the month of August and may even interest you into reading Septembers…

I would like to finish this update by informing you, we have now received confirmation of our first Academy Stadium Game for the 2018/19 season.

There are several supporters that have been in attendance to these fixtures previously, and if I could ask for as many fans of the club to come and support the lads as possible this season, we would be forever grateful. It adds to the experience for the boys and will hopefully give you a look at what we could potentially have out on the Abbey Stadium in years to come.

The game will take place at the Abbey Stadium on Wednesday 24th October 2018 and will be a 6pm KO against Manchester United FC.

Information about how to purchase tickets will go on the club website very soon.

Up the U’s!

Tom Pell
Academy Manager

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