Whilst May and June are traditionally quieter months on the field for football clubs, the work behind the scenes to move the club forward continues at a pace across all departments.
One of the key areas for our future development is ensuring that local lads are given the opportunity to play for their local professional team. With this in mind, it was fantastic to see young striker, Owen James given his First Team debut away at Blackburn on the final day of the season.
Owen has come through the Academy system here at the club and it is testament to his work ethic and humility that, the day after his debut, he was the first young player through the doors helping us dismantle goals and shift equipment as we began the process of moving the training ground. I’d also like to pass on my congratulations to Albie Hopkins who also travelled with the side to Ewood Park – another step in his football development.
Recent weeks have seen us confirm the move of our 7-16s programme to Oxford City’s Marsh Lane stadium for the next three seasons enabling us to make use of their excellent, FIFA-approved 3G surface. We have also made a number of staffing additions within the Academy including the addition of Darren Purse who will lead our U16s programme next season. Both these moves are designed to help us better prepare our young players for the demands of full-time football.
These past weekends have seen five staff members out at local grassroots festivals around our county as we continue to work on identifying talented players here in Oxfordshire. I’d like to thank all those at Marston Saints, Garden City, Abingdon, Carterton, Oxford City, and Newbury for the warm welcome our staff received at their tournaments and congratulate them for hosting such high-quality events.
On the theme of recruitment, it was encouraging to be able to host a trial game for our new U23s programme last week as we work to find the right profile of player to join this new development squad. Having identified approximately 40 potential players from around the country, we were able to get eyes on these young lads before the season finished as we work to put together a U23s squad with the right desire and hunger built into its DNA.
As we move into the close season, our commitment to building an Academy that the club can be proud of remains unchanged. All our staff are driven to “invest into the life of young footballers” as we work to provide a pathway for these young men to represent this fantastic club and its fans.
I wish you all well for the summer.
Proud History: Bright Future
Head of Academy