A Visit To Cardiff’s House Of Sport Takes Centre Stage In This Week’s Academy Report

It was a superb weekend of football for The New Saints FC Academy, with some exciting opportunities and experiences for our youngsters, writes Jason Brindley.

On Saturday morning, we welcomed Airbus UK Broughton to our first team Stadium for development fixtures, while our U11s travelled to the Airfield. Airbus’ first team are having a good season in the Huws Gray Cymru Alliance and look likely to be re-joining the JD Welsh Premier League next season.

Airbus always have good age groups and provide competitive games and this weekend was no different. Despite the wild and windy conditions, the games were of good standard. It was good to see players taking in info and demonstrating it after the breaks. It’s clear to see the improvement of all groups within the Foundation Phase, individually and collectively this season.

On Sunday, our U16s travelled to Tranmere Rovers. Tranmere are in the process of re-launching their full academy, after closing it a couple of seasons ago on the back of getting relegated from the Football League. They continued to run their 16s leading into their Scholarship programme. Tranmere have always been tough games and you know that their players will work hard and will be loud and intimidating. It’s a good challenge. Making the challenge even more interesting was several U15s playing for our 16s. It was a very competitive game and we thank Tranmere for hosting us.

As well as 15s playing up for our 16s, we had five Under 16s play for our U19s Performance Phase this weekend, away to Bangor City. Head of Performance Phase, Steve Benyon, commented:

“The five under 16’s who came into the Performance Phase squad all performed fantastically well. Regan Jones and Will Nevitt both started the game, with Regan putting in an assured performance in the middle of the park, while Will caused the opposition defence constant problems with his ball carrying abilities and his ability to show to feet or in behind.

“Ryan Morgan and Ryan Dacey both performed superbly well in full-back positions, coping well with wingers nearly four years their senior, as well as supporting their wingers in attacking scenarios. Harvey Edwards was a menace to the opposition back line, with his powerful runs and ability to bring others into play, which was rewarded with a well-taken finish to make it 3-1. This was after a well taken 20-yard strike from Regan Jones to make it 2-1.

“A massive well done to all five making their Performance Phase debuts, and credit to Rob, Jase and the Academy on continuing to produce the players. We are hoping to give two or three more players their debuts this season.”

We have numerous players playing up across the board, through all age groups. Players are at different stages of their development, and it’s making sure they are being challenged as an Individual. While we have U7-19s, to our first team, really we are one football club, all the same team. The style is the same. The message is the same. Players need to be exposed to different scenarios, as they aren’t going to fulfil their potential in their safety zone. Even if this is at the expense of losing a game, who cares really at youth level. It’s all about developing the player. Our job is to develop football players, not winning children’s football teams, who believe what we are doing and why.

Also on Sunday, we hosted Airbus at Park Hall Stadium, with our U13s and U15s. Both age groups were of good standard and we again thank Airbus for travelling.

To conclude Sunday and another fantastic weekend for our Academy, our U12s and U14s travelled to the House of Sport, at Cardiff City FC, to compete in the FAW National Futsal Finals. Both age groups qualified from the Northern Finals, which was hosted at Deeside Leisure Centre. In that we competed in a league format, playing 11 games against all the other Academies from North Wales, before a semi-final and Final game.

The top 2 teams from North Wales compete in the National Finals alongside the top 2 teams from South Wales.

Our U12s and Bangor City qualified as top 2, with our U14s and Airbus UK Broughton.

Making up the teams from South Wales Finals were Cambrian and Clydach Vale and Aberystwyth in U12s and Barry Town and Carmarthen.

We travelled down on Sunday morning, departing the Venue early on our official first team bus. We have stayed over in the past but with the Rugby in the Nation’s Capital the evening before, we decided to travel the same day.

The Futsal Finals were played in the indoor training centre of Cardiff City Academy, also known as the House of Sport. It’s located next to the Cardiff City first team stadium.

Futsal is a sport I enjoy. It does take a bit of getting used to in relation to the rules, as they are different to what we play in North Wales.

It is also played indoors, on hard floor, instead of the 3G we play on. I appreciate that it’s not possible with no facility able to accommodate it in the North currently. However, you do get your principles out and you are always constantly on or around the ball, so your awareness and concentration levels must be higher. With short games you can’t switch off for a second.

Our U12s competed against Aberystwyth in the Semi-Final before facing Cambrian and Clydach Vale in the National Final. Both games were interesting, with both teams having their own strategy and game plan. Teams weren’t really interested in playing out. The GK would throw the ball as far as he could and then it became a game of second balls. It’s a challenge, but one that players will have to learn to deal with as lots of teams play similarly. Saying that though, the standard of player was excellent in both games, extremely competitive and enjoyable to be a part of.

Our U14s followed. Coach Danny commented:

“Our U14s faced Carmarthen Town in the semi-finals of the National Futsal finals with the FAW.

“It was a very competitive game, finishing 1-1, with both sides having enough chances to win the game. The futsal games go straight to penalties if it’s a draw, meaning three penalties each before sudden death.

“The shootout was still tied even after all the squad had taken a penalty. I think there were eight penalties before a winner was decided. Unfortunately Carmarthen Town went through to the final.

“Nevertheless, we could not be prouder of the players and a difficult test vs Barry Town was waiting in the 3rd/4th play off place.

“This game was again, a competitive fixture which saw end to end attacks, moving the ball very quickly. Our boys showed great character following a major heartbreak from the previous fixture, to finish 3rd in the group.

“I could not be prouder of the players and we now have our 11v11 North Wales Final vs Bala Town to look forward to.”

Overall, we are extremely proud of our Academy youngsters. Regardless of results, which I keep saying aren’t the most important thing at this age, the players have been exceptional. I spoke with the 12s afterwards and I asked why they enjoyed football, why they played it and what did success look like to them? How can you define Success? I said to them that success to me wasn’t winning cups or leagues, but by producing players and having a hand in their development and seeing players I’ve coached play for our first team, then move to a bigger club.

It’s about believing the process and I see that through all areas of our youth development programme. It’s a very exciting time to be a part of our football club.

Next weekend, we conclude the FAW Super6 campaign, as well as welcoming Llandudno and River Juniors to Park Hall Stadium, before travelling to Arsenal.