Walsall Academy boss Miguel Llera believes he has instilled a culture of winning in the Under-18s this season writes Jack Dawson.
Although Llera’s first season in charge was cut short by COVID-19 restrictions, performances on the pitch have continued to improve dramatically.
Overcoming a much-reduced pre-season schedule and almost half a season of lost player development, it is impressive that Walsall have begun the new campaign netting nine goals and conceding just one in three resounding victories.
Off the pitch it is Llera’s winning mentality, synergised throughout the academy that has been vital in helping the players improve together by enjoying all aspects of their football.
“It’s been part of the culture over the last couple of years. I think that is maybe why the club brought me here because the academy didn’t have that winning mentality.
“I know they say the winning is not important but for me I think winning is really important.”
The season prior to Llera taking the reins at the academy, Young Saddlers won just six league games. In his first season, with eight matches to play when COVID-19 hit, Walsall Under-18s had already recorded eight victories, scoring 37 goals – 10 more than the whole previous season.
“All the club is saying we want a winning mentality, but you create it when you are pushing the players and for me it’s important. If the players win on the pitch, it’s because they are happy.
“They are growing as players that’s why the winning mentality is important because it shows the players are improving and doing the right things.”
The philosophy seems to be working as several academy players including Jayden Campbell and Joe Foulkes have been involved in first team training. Llera believes there are many aspects which go into achieving the right results.
“In the psychological side of the game if the player is coming into the training session happy, the player is going to improve. If they are winning games and come to training and go into education happy, they create a better environment. If you are not winning any games, then the environment is poor.
“What we try to do is create an environment in the club that everybody can enjoy, and everybody is coming in happy and winning games because that is the best way to do it.
“Under that environment is how you create professional players.”