Academy Manager Dan Harris writes:
One of the fantastic aspects of professional football is that there is no hiding place for all the work that we do. Whilst in other industries it is possible to manipulate a narrative or disguise a set of less than perfect outcomes, the brutality of the scoreboard in football is one of the harsh realities that comes with coaching in this game.
Last week we put out a young U23s side with an average age of just 19 and ended up being well-beaten by Mark Jones’s Oxford City side in the quarter-finals of the Oxfordshire Senior Cup.
As an Academy Manager with responsibility for everything we do from U7s-U23s, it is my job to ensure we learn lessons from disappointing evenings like last Tuesday but, at the same time, ensure we don’t allow them to de-rail the important work of continuing to develop our young footballers. Everyone associated with the result was clearly hurt at having let ourselves down, so it was really pleasing for me to see ten of the squad that had been involved against Oxford City showing magnificent resilience to travel down to AFC Wimbledon with our U18s squad four days later and secure a positive result in difficult conditions. Having had a man sent off after only 15 minutes, and on a tough, bobbly surface, our young side had the grit and pride in the badge to fight back from 3-1 down and score a last-minute equaliser to come away with a valuable point on the road. Weeks like this, whilst challenging, help our lads to be “forged in the fire” and I have no doubt they will be better for having been through the experience of these two games.
It is often easy in football to miss the hard work behind the scenes that so many staff members put in on a daily basis to help ensure things happen the way that they do. I wanted to highlight the role that Chris Hackett has played this season working alongside Leon Blackmore-Such with our U18s as an example of this unseen work. Chris is well known to Oxford fans for having come through the system himself as a player and one of his real strengths as a coach is investing in the individual development of our young players – it is no coincidence that the improvement that some of our young lads have made this season has come of the back of him spending hours after training with them working on developing areas of their game. Leon and Chris are a strong coaching pair and our U18s are certainly in good hands with them leading this part of our programme.
Whilst my remit at the club is the 7s-23s boys programme, I also wanted to congratulate the club’s U16s girls team on the fantastic achievement of having reached the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup. It is a credit to all the coaches and players involved that they were able to reach this late stage of the competition and we at the Academy would like to pass on our huge congratulations to all involved.
As we recognise success across the club I’d also like to acknowledge the following:
- U23s players Niall Clayton & Aaron Heap for receiving their first ever call up to the Wales U21 squad for a training camp.
- U13s Goalkeeper Monty Marriott who has once again been selected for elite Wales training squad.
- Our U10s who secured a positive result against Swindon last weekend.
- Academy graduate Sam Long who has started the last three games in the first team and recently signed a new contract extension.
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