Academy Manager Dan Harris writes:
Regular readers of this column will know that our mandate as an Academy programme is “to invest in the lives of young footballers.”
As a staff we are fiercely committed to producing high quality young men who can go on to represent our club in the right way at the highest level of the game. From our U23s right down to our U7s pre-academy this commitment to supporting the development of our young players both on and off the pitch underpins everything that we do.
This week has seen us run the first in a series of sessions with our parents and coaches looking at the importance of “Positive Mental Health.” Gary Bloom, a local Psychotherapist who works in schools across the region outlined some of the ways that mental health impacts on young people’s well-being – Gary will be running sessions with our young players in this crucial area over the coming months as we look to ensure that we are building into the lives of everyone who wears our badge.
On the pitch our U18s rounded off their league campaign with an emphatic 4-1 win over local rivals Cheltenham. It was great to see some of our young U16s and U15s step into the squad for this game and help us finish this campaign 7 points clear of our nearest Premier League rivals, Bournemouth.
Our U23s were narrowly beaten away at Swansea in their most recent Premier League Cup game by a home side that featured a number of full internationals and first team players. We made the conscious decision to push some of our sixteen and seventeen year olds into this game to expose them to the challenges of the next level of competition – I have no doubt they will benefit from this exposure over the coming months as they continue to develop. Whilst talking about our U23s I would like to thank winger Rev James who leaves the club this week at the end of his short-term contract. We thank him for his efforts and attitude over his time with Oxford United and wish him well for the future..
I also want to congratulate our U16s who secured a hard-fought win against a strong West Brom side last weekend under the guidance of Darren Purse and Paddy O’Neale. We have set very ambitious targets for our youth programme this season including trying to win another FIVE games against Category One “Big Hitter” Academies – learning how to win is a crucial part of player development here at Oxford United and we want any player who comes through our system to fiercely competitive performers as well as high quality young men.
Behind the scenes we are excited to welcome Gareth Hamer onboard as our new full-time Head of Academy Recruitment. Gareth is well known across the region having overseen the development of our Bicester Training Centre alongside his work with the Junior Premier League in recent months. Having previously been part of the recruitment teams at West Brom, Stoke City and Aston Villa, Gareth brings a wealth of experience to the table and will be a valuable addition as we continue to work on identifying and recruiting the best young players across our region. It is mark of our ambition and progress as a club that we are able to make a staff addition of this kind and I thank Niall McWilliams, Tim Davies and Tiger for their support in helping us get to this stage.
Finally can I encourage as many as you as possible to buy tickets for the upcoming home 1st Team game v Sunderland on the 9th of February– as well as the club targeting this key fixture for fan engagement our U18s will also be presented with their league trophy and medals during half time so it would be fantastic to see as many of you as possible there to see them lift some silverware.
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.
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