It was a very exciting and busy weekend for The New Saints FC Academy, writes Jason Brindley.
On Friday morning, two of our Academy age groups travelled to France to compete in International Football Tournaments. The full reports on these will follow separately.
Also on Friday, we travelled to compete in a Round-Robin football festival at one of the biggest and most successful Academies in the UK, if not the world, Arsenal FC. Arsenal have a fantastic record of producing players through their youth development programme to play for their first team. They have a similar model that we work towards, but obviously on a much larger scale.
We departed Park Hall Stadium at 12pm and made the journey to the English Capital, with a group of 14 players. It was a long journey with road works, etc but we arrived on time at 5pm, with the players in good spirits and excited throughout the journey.
Alongside ourselves were Cambridge United, and a good grassroots team from the age group above called Levels FC, run by Chelsea FC Academy Staff. We had a little stroll around their impressive facilities, before heading in to get changed, and prep for our opening game, against the hosts, Arsenal FC.
As you can imagine, Arsenal were technically very good, and quick with and without the ball. We caused them a few problems but like I said, they were very good. It was a good game and a great experience for our Young Saints.
In the second game we played against Levels. They were absolutely massive too, and we had a very small team. We knew we had a battle on our hands. Credit to the boys though, they responded superbly and gave a really good account of themselves. We knew it would be difficult in 1v1s in and out of possession and winning a leg race, so we relied on our quick combination play and the boys were very good. I was delighted with the game.
Our final game was against Cambridge United and it was good to catch up with Luke Chadwick. Luke, a former Manchester United player, heads up their Academy and we have spent time together on various courses in the past. It was good to see him.
This was a brilliant game and a great way to end a fantastic day for our Young Saints. You would have paid money to watch this game. Both teams just went for it. It was attacking play at its finest. Both teams scored some incredible goals, and it was end to end stuff. I just sat back in the dugout for this game and enjoyed what I was watching. Attacking flair and creativity at its best.
We had an amazing experience and Arsenal were excellent hosts, really looking after us and providing hot food to go home with. We were delighted and honoured to have been considered to travel to compete. It’s yet another great opportunity that we can offer here at The New Saints FC Academy.
Also over the weekend, we hosted the FAW UEFA B GK course at Park Hall Stadium. The course was attended by myself and also Lewis Dutton, who works alongside Connor Roberts, with our Academy Goalkeepers. The course was supported by our Academy players, who were excellent throughout the two days.
The course was very good. If you look at the roles of a modern goalkeeper, they are huge in football. Very similar to how we play here at The New Saints, the GK being the spare player often in build-up play, so his distribution and also positioning and supporting angles are vital. Even though I’m not a GK specific coach, it’s important to understand his role in as much detail as possible, and to see things through his eyes. I have definitely taken things away from the course.
Like I mentioned above, Lewis was also on the course. It was great to see his delivery and his mannerism with the players. Lewis is a player I have worked with since I started at TNS, when Lewis was 12 years old. To see the 18-year-old man he has become is a proud moment. Lewis is also now a full-time member of our first team, and has the attributes to be an excellent coach. Our young lads look up to him, working alongside Connor Roberts. Our Academy GKs have a fantastic team supporting and challenging their development. These are exciting times, as our GK provision is excellent and will only improve.
Alongside Lewis joining our first team squad, they have also added Liam Parry, Harry Bower and CJ Craven, who have developed through our youth structure.
Harry has been with us since U13s, Liam U14s and CJ U15s. It’s really good to see that the pathway at the football club is real and exists. Of course it’s for no lack of hard work, it isn’t easy, and just because they are in there now, they need to know this is when the hard work really starts.
I have worked with these boys over their development through our Academy and Simon and Steve have done a great job with the boys in the Performance Phase. I know we are very proud of them and hope to see them push on with our first team.
As we conclude a fantastic weekend, there were amazing experiences for our youngsters, with development again being at the forefront. Development for the players and development for the coaches. Next week, we look forward to welcoming Leeds based development team UFCA to Park Hall Stadium and our U13s become the latest team to travel abroad for an International Football Tournament.