The New Saints FC Academy concluded pre-season this week with some excellent fixtures and experiences, writes Jason Brindley.
On Wednesday, our U12s hosted Wirral School-boys at Park Hall Stadium. Wirral school boys are an excellent team, containing numerous Cat 1 Academy players.
Despite the challenge posed to our Youngest Development Phase group, the boys responded well and continued to play our way. It was a good challenge for the 12s. They have adapted well to the larger pitch going up from U11 and have added some exciting players to the group.
On Thursday came the main highlight of the week, when we travelled to the Cardiff City Stadium, home of the Welsh National team and the Country’s capital, to support the Champions of Wales against the Danish Champions, FC Midtjylland.
We had a great support of Academy players, with an age range of U8-19, travelling together. It was great to see them singing together, led by TNS’ number 1 fan, Graeme Kirkham, who was excellent throughout.
Our first team were fantastic and unlucky to concede, creating good opportunities against a very strong opposition.
On Friday morning, our Youth team travelled to Fleetwood to face their U18s. On arrival the boys watched new Fleetwood manager Joey Barton taking first team training before our fixture. The facilities are excellent and we thank them for the game.
We had numerous games across the board over the weekend. Our U8s and U9s travelled to face AFC Telford at TCAT College. Both age groups were excellent and played some excellent team football, passing and moving really well.
Our U13s and U15s travelled to face Rochdale, while our U16s hosted them at Park Hall Stadium. Our 15s played at Hyde United, on their 3G pitch with a superb set-up. Our 13s played at a nearby school on their 3G.
Both teams were excellent and we have recruited well in both age groups. Our 13s have come on this season already and have played some brilliant football. Our 15s again were on top form.
Back at Park Hall it was a very even game with our 16s. With players away on holidays, it has been difficult, but it’s great for players to get plenty of game time. That’s what pre-season is all about.
On Sunday, our U9s and 10s travelled to newly promoted English Premier League side Wolves, playing at their impressive Academy set up. Both age groups were brilliant, well behaved and played some really good football. We thank Wolves for the experience and look forward to playing them again in the future.
Our U12s welcomed Bangor City to Park Hall stadium on Sunday morning. Bangor are always good opposition, despite the situation with their first team, they always have good academy teams and they work really hard. You know you’ve had a game when you’ve played them. I like that challenge for our players and thank them for travelling.
Following our U12s, our 14s welcomed Airbus UK Broughton to The Venue. It was another excellent game and performance from our young Saints. They created some superb opportunities and it was a really entertaining game. I always say to players that football is an exciting game, I want to be entertained.
I want to be on the edge of my seat, enjoying the game. And that’s the same across the board, whether it be from being exciting and creative in 1v1s, defending and protecting the goal like your life depended on it or through quick combination play, playing through the thirds.
Our first team opened their Welsh Premier League Campaign against Barry Town and were ruthless.
We had a really strong Academy attendance, singing songs behind the goal together and banging the drum. It was great to see and we encourage players to support as many games as possible. We always speak about TNS DNA but there is no better evidence than our first team themselves.
That’s why we are all here after all. You can see what a TNS player looks like, position specific, through the four moments of the game and how they act within them phases.
To conclude a great week, our U16s welcomed Curzon Ashton following the first team fixture. Despite missing a few players, our 16s were superb and scored a couple of really well taken goals.
This coming week, we officially begin Week 1 of our Academy programme. Training will be mixed in with additional fixtures over the next couple of weeks until we get back into full routine. We look forward to fixtures against Cambrian, Shrewsbury, Swansea and Rotherham.
As we conclude pre-season and reflect over it, I feel it has been better than ever. We always want new players to gel and to fit in, which isn’t always easy.
With the amount of contacts already in, whether that be training or matches, I feel we are in a better position going into the season than ever before. I’m really looking forward to the season ahead and developing our players.