Professional Development Phase Coach Ryan Simmonds believes the Under 18s are starting to see the rewards of a demanding pre-season regime.
The Under 18s picked up their first win of the campaign with an excellent 4-2 victory over Bolton Wanderers in the EFL Youth Alliance Cup.
Simmonds has been pleased with how the team has progressed and improved in recent weeks, particularly from a fitness point of view which he felt was key to a deserved victory based on the performance.
“It was brilliant,” Simmonds said.
“I’ve watched it back a couple of times now and I think the boys were brilliant.
“We’ve been saying that this performance, this scoreline was coming - it was building up. In all of the games, we’ve had moments. We’ve had 15-minute spells, we had a 35-minute spell in the Accrington game but on Saturday they were brilliant from minute one to minute 100, with all the stoppages.
“It’s not just a win because it’s about development at our level and the boys are developing, improving and the most important thing, as I’ve said since I came in, they’re getting fitter. We outrun the opposition on Saturday.
“Our last two goals we had five/six people in the box ready to score a goal and the boys are now realising and appreciating why the pre-season was so hard and on Saturday they get their reward by winning the game.”
This season, the Under 18s have been training up at Essington, where the first team are based.
Simmonds stressed the importance of training alongside the first team and just how beneficial it can be to not just the first team but the development of the Under 18s both as players and as people.
“I can’t tell you how important it is,” he commented.
“I’ve worked at a lot of football clubs both as a player and a coach and a lot of the time the first team is separate from the youth team or the under 23s.
“I’ve been around sessions as a coach where you haven’t had a B team or under 23s and you’re having to come into the session because someone gets injured so I can’t stress enough the importance of the youth team training alongside because you can then get someone over to come and train and for the boys it’s so important for them.
“On Monday we had nine of them play an 11 a-side match against the ones who didn’t play at the weekend and you can’t teach that or get that in a normal training session.
“For most of them, they’re 16/17 and it’s brilliant for them to be training alongside these professionals and just seeing their behaviour and knowing how they train every single day, what they demand from each other every single day because ultimately, it’s that consistency of behaviour that they need to learn.
“They’re here because they’re good at football, granted but it’s these little one per cent other things that can be crucial for them to have a career.”