It was another week full of football and events for The New Saints FC Academy, writes Jason Brindley.
On Wednesday, prior to our first-team fixture against Llandudno, we had two different events at Park Hall Stadium.
Firstly, we had our official squad photos for the 2018/19 season on the pitch, exactly like our first team.
We were even lucky enough to have official club photographer, Brian Jones capture the images. We were fortunate that the evening was mild, and thank Brian for his continued support and excellent professionalism with the photos.
These photos will soon be available, along with individual ones captured the week previous.
As well as our photos, we hosted a ‘Show Racism the Red Card Event,’ and we thank Jason Webber for holding the workshop. Some of the feedback I received off him was very pleasing, especially regarding how intelligent some of the answers were from our younger groups.
It’s important that we look to educate our players in different ways and things like these are really good, interactive workshops.
Following the workshop, we had a fantastic attendance for our first-team fixture, who produced a stand out performance in a great game.
As we ran into the weekend, we were fortunate for a warm autumn morning on Saturday, as we hosted Rhyl Academy at Park Hall Stadium.
Rhyl always have good young football teams and it’s a proper Welsh football town. Despite their first team being in the second tier, their Academy always have good players who work tirelessly.
This weekend was no different. All the games were fantastic, with kids enjoying the beautiful game and playing with smiles on their faces.
Our U8s continue to impress. They’re a small group containing two of our U7s who have been pushed up. Kieran, and now Ben alongside him have done a terrific job and they are a great group.
Our U9s continue to improve weekly and again were very good against a good Rhyl side.
Our U10s had head of Performance Phase Coach Steve Benyon leading the age group, as we look to get our full time staff more integrated within the Academy. Steve was full of praise for the team who were excellent.
Our U11s continued recent good performances. They are starting to adapt to the 9v9 format which is good to see.
On Sunday, our U12/U14/U16s concluded Phase 1 fixtures of the FAW Academy Cup. Our U14s and 16s had already qualified for the Super6, with our U12s just seeking a point to progress.
Each year the Welsh Football Association holds the Academy Cup and it’s split into north and south sections, with winners of both meeting in the spring.
The first phase is split into three small groups, with the top two in each group combining to make up the Super6.
These then compete over 10 games in a league format, with the top two competing in a northern final before the All Welsh Final, where they take on the winners of the southern league.
While we don’t focus on results at The New Saints, certainly not within the youth phase, it’s still a good psychological twist to see the competitive nature and the way the players adapt.
It’s important that as coaches, we don’t become blinded by the results and lose track of the main aim, which is developing players.
Success to me isn’t winning childrens’ trophies, but developing players for our first-team or even better. It’s about having a hand in players’ development and helping to develop the person as well as player.
Obviously our first-team are winners and we want to breed that into our young players. We need to make sure that they don’t get lost along the way though. It’s about long term development over short term gains.
Our U12s were superb, knowing that a performance would be enough for qualification into the Super6. They produced a standout performance and I was extremely proud of all the players for their bravery and commitment to one another.
We recruited well to what was already a good group and they look like a proper miniature version of our first team, especially the way in which they move the ball.
Our U14s and U16s had already qualified from the previous rounds. Both games against Airbus were competitive, physical games. We thank Airbus for hosting the games and look forward to playing them again in the future.
To conclude the weekend, our U15s hosted Cefn Druids while our U13s travelled to The Rock to face them.
Cefn Druids continue to improve each year and I feel the 3G pitch helps this. They have a good catchment area and have some good age groups.
Our U15s started well and produced a fine performance. They have been showing signs of this lately and this was one of them games when everything came together. At times we were unplayable.
Our U13s continued their recent fine performances away to Druids. The opening goal was superb, scored just 90 seconds after kick-off, without Druids even touching the ball.
Druids battled well and you know you’ll never get an easy game against them. Their parents love it and create an atmosphere, which in itself is a challenge for our players.
They play on full size pitches at U13s, while we only play 18-18 at Park Hall, so the game was different to what we are used to.
The additional 36 yards plays a huge difference, on what is already a big enough pitch. It can hamper the more technical, smaller player, in favour of the more physical faster player. That is a challenge however, that the players must adapt to and I was delighted at the way the players did that.
We had to change our normal system, as it almost became a game of tennis. It was a very back and forth game and it was far too open. Again, it was a very good learning experience for our players.As we conclude another week of our full time programme, it was great to have our photos and educate our players in a different way.
Congratulations go out to our U12/14/16s on qualifying for a third consecutive year and we are the only Welsh Academy to do so in the Northern section I believe.
It shows the continued growth and improvement of our youth football provision that I am very proud to be a part of. Credit to all the coaches for the work they put in both on the field and behind the scenes.
Next week we look forward to facing Everton, Airbus, Swansea, Salford and the beginning of the FAW Super6.