“Champions League Standards…Champions League People.”
Regular followers of this “Academy Uncovered” Series will be aware that our mission statement within the youth development programme here at the club is “to invest in the lives of young footballers.” I firmly believe that we have a responsibility across this region to produce high quality young men that can, not only perform at the very highest level of the game, but also represent our football club in a way that makes every fan proud to be a Yellow.
The last seven days have bought a quiet sense of pride for me as an Academy Manager as we’ve begun to see some of these underlying values come to the fore.
Last Monday saw first team winger Rob Hall spend time with our schoolboy players and it was great not only to see him coaching our groups, but also taking time to talk individually with a number of our young men about the ups and downs of his journey so far. It is a testament to Hally as a man that he would use his time whilst he is out injured in investing in our young players - we look forward to working more closely with him over the coming months.
On the field, the last week has seen various age groups involved in games with seven different Premier League teams – Wolves, Fulham, Chelsea, Brighton, Crystal Palace, Watford and Burnley. These games are part of our wider strategy to stretch and challenge our young men and raise their expectation levels about what they could accomplish – I want all our lads to aspire to Champions League standards as we try and set a ruthlessly professional commitment to world class performance.
Particular congratulations go to our U15s who beat Fulham; our U11s who beat Brighton, our U23s who secured a well-deserved draw with Wolves in the Premier League Cup and of course our U18s who were a credit to the badge in travelling up to Burnley and winning on penalties in the FA Youth Cup. I would also like to extend my thanks to Karl Robinson & Derek Fazackerley who travelled up the M6 to support our young squad at Turf Moor – it was outstanding seeing them in the stands as our lads fought to do the club proud.
Whilst results like those above are a reflection of the progress we’re making, I’m more proud of the unseen things behind the scenes that the fans might not be aware of:
- Our U18s coming in on a Sunday to support our U14s programme and help coach our U11s.
- Our Full-time Academy staff who shoulder the burden of the logistical support for a growing programme alongside their full-time roles.
- Owen James, Armani Little, Niall Clayton, Freddie Niblett, Matt Taylor and others from across our U18s and U23s who are regularly doing additional individual work in the gym when no one is looking to maximise their chances of success.
- Slavi Spasov, Michael Elechi and Kyran Lofthouse who have responded to recently signing their first professional contracts with humility and class as they have re-doubled their efforts to improve and progress.
We’re still a long way away from where we need to be as a club but our commitment to developing high quality players and young men who can represent this proud city in the right way will always underpin the work that we do here in the Academy – make sure you follow the Official Academy Twitter feed @AcademyOUFC to stay up to date with all the Youth Development news here at Oxford United.
Proud History: Bright Future