Academy Manager Dan Harris brings us up to date with the behind the scenes news from the U7s-U23s programme:
I’d like to start this week’s update by passing on our thoughts and prayers to the friends, family and colleagues of Abingdon-based Police Officer Andrew Harper who was tragically killed in the line of duty last week. Within our Academy staff we have a number of individuals who had worked with PC Harper and, as a result, it has been a fairly sombre week across the programme. We spoke with our U18s about the incident and, with them playing their fixture down at Abingdon United on Saturday just gone, it was only fitting that they observed a minute’s silence, mirroring the First Team, before their game.
Connecting our young men with the wider world is one of the key responsibilities that we as an Academy are committed to as we work to “invest in the lives of young footballers.” Over the last two weeks it has been great to have young professionals, Nico Jones; Aaron McCreadie and Keanu Barnett-Grant working in a mentoring capacity with our young schoolboy players. All three lads spoke about their own footballing journey to date and then helped coach with some of our younger age-groups. We believe that these kinds of interactions help build a genuine sense of pride in our badge as well as providing a unique opportunity for our younger Pro’s to take on a leadership role.
On the field we have been deliberate in taking on fixtures against a number of Category Two Academy clubs over the course of the first few months of the season as we begin the process of moving towards this higher Category status as a club.
Playing the likes of QPR, Crystal Palace, Coventry and Birmingham gives us a benchmark for where we’re at and, when we also mix this in with fixtures against Category One clubs of the likes of Fulham, Southampton and West Ham, helps us to see the areas we need to address as we move forwards. It was great to see some strong, battling performances from our young players – also great to get a few wins along the way against these more established Academies too!
The last seven days have seen our U18s battle back from two down to secure a well-deserved draw against local rivals Swindon whilst our U23s travelled down to Premier League Bournemouth in a fixture that saw Shandon Baptiste play his first 60mins back after injury. Shandon has worked tremendously hard to get back fit over the last nine months and seeing him taking a couple of heavy tackles during the game and bouncing back onto his feet was a huge step forward for him…great to see him back involved again.
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