Academy Manager Dan Harris writes
As the nights draw in across the county, this time of year sees the Academy Programme move into the next phase of our development plans across all the age groups.
Starting with our U21s, this is the pre-planned training block that sees the majority of the players in this age group go out on short-term loans before Christmas to expose them to the realities of Men’s football. Currently Owen James is at Bracknell FC; Aaron Heap is at North Leigh and Kyran Lofthouse is at partner club Oxford City where he made a goalscoring start this weekend in the Conference South. The next few days will see a number of other players in this group also begin to go out in order to play games around the region.
Our Under-18s and Under-16s are both fighting it out at the top of their respective leagues with Portsmouth and Bournemouth as they move into the final few games of this phase of the season. Both of our young sides are currently within one point of top spot at the time of writing and will be looking to build on this over the next few games.
It was positive to see a number of our U18s and U21s named in the 1st Team squad vs Crawley Town and I’d particularly like to congratulate Tyler Goodrham and Nico Jones for becoming the club’s youngest ever player and youngest ever captain respectively. Both of these young lads have made solid progress over their time in the building so far and we look forward to continuing to support them and the rest of our scholars over the weeks and months ahead.
In our schoolboy age groups, Half-term saw us taking on games against Fulham and Southampton alongside our existing fixture programme as we continue to provide opportunities for our lads to test themselves against the best young players in the country. This exposure to a wide range of games is a key part of our development strategy as we look to continue ensuring our players are supported and stretched as they build towards hopefully making a career in the game.
Off the field we have had staff out at a number of CPD opportunities over recent weeks as part of our commitment to having the best possible support structures in place for our young men. Our Head of Player Care, Matt Jarvis has been instrumental in enhancing our player support programme since joining us last season and, last week saw him working with over 200 practitioners from across the sporting landscape including guys from the NFL and Olympic Sports looking at ways in which we can ensure our young players are given the best possible off-field care.
In finishing I would like to extend my thanks to Tiger; the board of directors; Niall McWilliams and Tim Davies who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes over the last few months to secure the long-term future of the training ground for the football club. This hasn’t been an easy process to navigate but I want to echo the comments already made by Karl and other key figures at the club about what a significant step this is for all parts of Oxford United and the community as a whole – we have the opportunity now to play our part in having a real impact across the region by creating an outstanding sporting hub that can help inspire the next generation of young players here in Oxfordshire. Well done to all for their efforts in reaching this point.
Stay up to date with all things Academy by following the club’s official youth development twitter feed - @AcademyOUFC.
Proud History: Bright Future