As we race through August, it’s been another jam-packed week of football and amazing experiences for The New Saints FC Academy, writes Jason Brindley.
These weeks are going thick and fast, so there’s hardly chance to catch our breath. It’s been a really positive summer and this past week was no different.
On Monday, our U11s travelled to Finch Farm, home of Everton FC, for a football festival. The festival was small sided games, with two different groups. The level of teams playing was very high. It was a superb experience for our young Saints, playing at one of the most prestigious Academies in the UK. Everton have a great history of producing players, so it was great for our players to challenge themselves.
We thank Everton for considering us and look forward to playing them again in the near future.
On Wednesday, we travelled to face Stoke City, with four different age groups. The weather on Wednesday was extremely wet, however that didn’t dampen our players’ spirits.
We have a good relationship with Stoke and play them numerous times across the season. The fixtures were played at Stone Dominoes, their alternative Academy training complex. The grass pitches were very good. We don’t often play on grass with more and more artificial pitches. It’s crazy to think that playing on grass pitches provides a different type of challenge but in reality that is the truth.
The games were of excellent standard and we thank Stoke for hosting the games.
On Friday evening, our U13s welcomed Wirral Schools to Park Hall Stadium. Wirral schoolboys are an excellent team, containing players from some of the top academies around. We have a good relationship with various school boys teams, and you know the standard of opposition will always be very high, so it’ll be a really tough but good game.
Friday was no different. The game was excellent, with both teams playing outstanding stuff throughout. We played full pitch at The Venue for the first time with this group. We wanted to expose them to a different type of challenge and the players responded well.
We thank Wirral for travelling to us and look forward to playing them again soon.
Also on Friday evening, we welcomed Shrewsbury DC to face our U16s. Our 16s have been affected by holidays recently, and it’s always a difficult time of year, with players away. It’s good in another way, as it provides more game time to players and also the chance to play players several ages up to give different types of opportunities and challenges.
Our 16s are slowly all returning and produced a good performance, especially in the second-half. We thank Shrewsbury for making the short journey over.
On Saturday, our U15s welcomed Kidderminster Harriers to the home of the champions of Wales. We have played Kidderminster with various age groups over the past fortnight, with this weekend being the turn of our U15s.
The game followed our first team training in preparation for their opening JD Cymru Premier fixture, against Caernarfon Town. It was good to have our 15s watching the session. In a season or so they may be taking part, such is the philosophy at the club of developing our players. Numerous players have had the opportunity over the past few seasons, so it’s great to see we are developing players to that standard.
Our U15s produced a good performance, also containing a couple of U14s who didn’t look out of place. We thank Kidderminster for the fixtures over the past few weeks.
On Sunday morning, we welcomed River Juniors Academy to Park Hall. River Juniors are a very well run team from Liverpool. They have age groups right across the board and the standard of their players is very high.
They faced our U8s to U11s on a bright and sunny Sunday morning. It was great to see all our young groups enjoying the game we all love. We have been back in now six weeks or so, sporadically at times due to pitch availability with our first team playing in Europe and also midweek fixtures.
It’s good though that we as coaches are developing the individual player profiles that we will discuss with players next week as a means of creating their first six week TTMP review. Then it’s over to the staff to ensure, with the help of the player, that these areas are being thought of and worked on in their contacts, both training and games. It’s about how we tailor our contacts to ensure individual areas of focus are being focused on.
Our U14s wrapped up the day on Sunday when we hosted Caernarfon Town, following our first team fixture against the Cofi Army. It did feel like a late Sunday fixture, with our 14s starting a bit slowly and was very casual at times, but there was an improvement after the first interval. Our 14s are developing well though, they are receptive to info which is important and the new players are gelling well.
To conclude the week, it was great to see former TNS Academy player Callum Jones sign a pro contract with Hull City. Cal was with TNS from U15s, for 4 years. He had a great attitude when he was at the club, always seeking feedback and doing extra in the gym. It’s great to use Cal as a role model that you won’t get anything for free, you have to earn it, you have to put the work in.
It’s good to see that our Youth Development provision is developing players of that calibre. Out of that very year group, we have five players who have signed pro contracts with TNS, Cal has signed for Hull City, Sam Finley at Wigan, Harry Walker at Telford, there are a couple of players playing in the Cymru Alliance and a couple going to Uni following our education programme. One has gone to America for a sports scholarship. It’s good to provide players these opportunities.
We look forward to another exciting week when we travel to Leeds on Wednesday, our 13s travel to France over the weekend and we host Doncaster Rovers.