Academy Manager Dan Harris writes:
With the season drawing to a close, I wanted to start this week’s review by passing on my thanks to all those fans who have shown such an interest in the U7s-U23s Academy programme over the course of the year. It has been fantastic to have so many people taking an active involvement in the development of our young players here at Oxford United and we really do appreciate all the support.
Following on from December’s “review in numbers” which was well received, I’ve tried to summarise below some of the real positives from this year as a way of reflecting on the season as a whole:
- Six Scholars have been offered Pro deals for the new season joining Owen James who had already signed a deal last year and Ryan Crooks who is recovering from a knee injury. Congratulations to Kyran Lofthouse; Aaron McCreadie, Nico Jones, Michael Elechi, Fabio Lopes & Slavi Spasov for their progress so far.
- Ten wins against Category One Academies over the course of the season including victories against Arsenal, Fulham, Brighton and West Brom. We want our young players to test themselves against the some of the best Academies in the country and so to secure 10 wins across the age groups was a significant achievement.
- Seven First Team debuts for Academy players/graduates including Goalkeeper Jack Stephens and first year scholars Fabio Lopes, Slavi Spasov and Nico Jones.
- 139 first team squad entries across the season from Academy players or Graduates. This measure of the number of times an Academy player is listed in the match day 18 helps us track our productivity and, whilst our targets are clearly much higher than just getting players in the squad, it is still a useful marker of progress.
- Five call-ups to International age group sides. Congratulations to Aaron Heap x2, Niall Clayton, Slavi Spasov and Monty Marriott for receiving International recognition.
- First ever Under-18s League title as an Academy and first trip to the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup in over 25 years.
We only share these numbers to remind us of the hard work that has gone in from numerous people to get us to this point and, more importantly, to allow us to refocus again and ensure that we continue to relentlessly pursue excellence in everything that we do.
These numbers also don’t tell the “human” stories that are crucially important as we continue with our mission of “investing in the lives of young footballers”.
Seeing Shandon Baptiste captain the side against Man City at a sold out Kassam Stadium; seeing Slavi Spasov become the club’s youngest ever goal scorer at just 16 years old; Seeing U15s midfielder Theo Mara reading “The Last Post” on Remembrance Sunday; Seeing our staff pouring their hearts into developing high quality young men, these stories, along with numerous others, all contribute to a real sense of pride in this football club and in what it could develop into over the coming years….
We’ve still got four weeks of Academy football left and, with plenty of work still to do, we’re not able to think about any kind of let up just yet but there is certainly a real sense of pride in the work that has gone in so far by all those involved.
May I wish you all well for the Summer ahead – remember to follow the Official Academy Twitter feed @AcademyOUFC to stay up to date with all the Youth Development news here at Oxford United.