We reach the penultimate weekend for our Academy season, writes Jason Brindley, a season which has been a great success. With the Academy continuing to grow and improve in terms of our programme and fixture schedule, we feel that this has been one of the best.
In typical fashion over the weekend, there were lots of games for our Academy youngsters.
On Friday evening we welcomed our Foundation Phase age groups to Park Hall Stadium to play against Airbus (Our 7s and 10s) and North West Elite (Our 8s and 11s). The U-7s and U-11s played a year up as well which was a great challenge. As I’ve mentioned in the past, it’s important to challenge our players, and by playing against older and stronger players you have to adapt your game.
I was impressed by the fact that the players weren’t daunted by the size difference and this challenged them to recognise triggers to press/engage the ball and to use their body wisely – very good learning opportunities.
On Saturday we travelled to Blackburn Rovers, facing their Academy at their first team training complex. We have a good relationship with Blackburn, not only with former Academy player Jack Vale signing a professional contract, but by maintaining good standard of opposition for them over the past few seasons. It was another good experience for our Academy youngsters to face top opposition and to challenge themselves.
Our Community Foundation U-15s side faced Chorley at Park Hall Stadium on Saturday afternoon, following our U16s session in the JPL, and continued their good play in the league. This was despite missing 7 players who were representing the Wrexham Schoolboys in the semi-finals of the National Cup at the House Of Sport in Cardiff. It shows the strength of the group, missing so many key players. Wrexham Schoolboys were victorious and congratulations to our Academy players that represented them.
Our U-13s wrapped up Saturday with a good performance against Winsford. Our 13s are another strong group who show a great understanding of the TNS DNA and our core principles.
On Sunday we travelled to Port Vale with our odd-age groups whilst our evens welcomed them to Park Hall Stadium. We are in the process of building our fixture programme and developing relationships with other clubs as we look ahead to next season.
Our U-9s played 2 x 5v5 games, a format that they aren’t used to but one I like personally. It gives players more opportunities to get on the ball, and more 1v1 situations, which at that age is important for their learning. Our U-11s played 9v9, a format they will be moving into next season.
It was a good game and a good challenge for the boys. Our U-13s had a really good encounter, a very good game. Our U-15s game was called off after 20 minutes, after a nasty head collision between a Port Vale player and Ryan Smith resulted in both players being taken via ambulance to hospital. Credit to both sets of coaches for the way they dealt with the situation. We wish a speedy recovery to both players.
Our evens games were also extremely competitive at Park Hall Stadium. It’s good to build relationships with new teams and we look forward to facing them again in the future.
To conclude the weekend, our U-16s faced-off against Airbus at Park Hall Stadium. Despite our U-16s narrowly missing out on the top two of the Super6 Academy cup by a single point in what proved to be a competitive league, with 4 teams competing for top 2 going into the final game, I feel they have had a successful season.
They showed great understanding of this week’s training topic and demonstrated it perfectly against Airbus, playing fantastically. If you were to ask me what is success for me personally, in terms of youth football, it isn’t and will never be games or trophies won.
It’s good and feels nice to be successful but that’s not the be all and end all. It’s about the development of the players. As I looked around the changing room following the game yesterday, I saw players who have come on brilliantly this season.
These are players who I feel have a great chance of developing further with the football club. With the majority of the boys moving into, and challenging what is already a strong U-19s team, they will be pushing each other next season and will all have to earn the right to play and to earn the shirt. Exciting times.
Lead photograph: U-9s team shot.
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