Academy Report – Yet Another Busy Weekend Facing Arklow, Newtown, Airbus and More

It’s crazy to believe that we’re halfway through February already, with half-term approaching, writes Jason Brindley. The days are starting to get longer and the weather is improving (touch wood it remains the same), it’s always a nice time of year.

We have an action packed week ahead for our youngsters, but before we look ahead, let’s recap the week just past.

Midday on Saturday, we welcomed Arklow United to Park Hall Stadium. Arklow are currently on a tour of the UK from Ireland. We have lots of different football connections, and it’s great to be considered for games against touring teams. They cram a lot of football in to their short visit and I think that showed to an extent, although they did contain some good players and were a great group. We hope they enjoyed their visit to the home of the Welsh Champions.

On Sunday morning, our U8s travelled to Newtown. Our 8s are a great group and have come along well this season. They are only a small group – we feel smaller groups are better in the younger ages to maximise game time and also you can affect players more in practices.

Our U10s and U11s travelled to Cefn Druids for a football festival. The small nature of the format was a challenging yet rewarding one. Pitches were tight, but I personally think that’s a good thing at times. It challenges decision-making, which needs to be quick, but you also need to know where the space is and to create space on the ball.

The festival was very well run and we thank Druids for inviting us to participate.

Our U12/14/16s age groups continued their FAW Academy Cup Super6 campaign. We are the only Welsh Premier League Academy to qualify for the Super6 in the three consecutive years it has run and we are very proud of this achievement from our youngsters.

Our 12s opened proceedings, welcoming Newtown to Park Hall Stadium. It was an interesting game, with Newtown defending deep and being very organised with their defensive shape. We are delighted with the progress of our U12s this season during their first year in the Development Phase. They’ve had lots of info to take in but they have responded well. The individual and collective improvement is evident.

Our U14s followed, welcoming Airbus UK to our first team stadium. Our U14s have continued to develop and improve. It was only 6-12 months ago when they were out playing opposition, but getting beat by bigger and stronger players, who could kick the ball further and run faster. The U14s are only a small group, with lots of technical players. We told the boys to not focus on the result, but focus on your performance and trust the process. Trust what we are doing and see the bigger picture. I was really delighted to see them play and credit goes to the players and coaches.

Finally in the FAW Academy Cup Super6, our U16s also hosted Airbus UK. It seems to be a running theme of discussing how well our players and groups are doing, in terms of the development of the player. It’s rewarding as it shows that our programme is working. I have been extremely impressed by this group over the past couple of months. There is a great balance of different types of player throughout the group, and they really compliment each other. They are also one of our most social groups. They continued recent form with another excellent performance.

To conclude a long but enjoyable day at The Venue, our U13s welcomed Liverpool based side River Juniors. Our U13s took on recent training topics well and demonstrated them perfectly. We have seen a massive improvement by this group, and they seem more mature (at times) and they have really started to take in concepts and improve their understandings of football. We are delighted with the group as they continue to improve.

It was a really enjoyable weekend for all at The New Saints FC Academy. We thank all our opposition for excellent games of learning and improving.

Next week, we look forward to some excellent fixtures against Leyton Orient, Bolton Wanderers, Barnsley, Accrington Stanley, Chester and Stoke City among others.