Academy Manager Dan Harris writes:
Regular readers of this “Academy:Uncovered” series will be familiar with our mission statement that underpins everything that we do – we are here to “invest in the lives of young footballers.” As a staff team, everything we do references back to this commitment to ensuring that every single young player in our building is well-known and well-supported.
One of the ways that we try to support our young players is through the work of Gary Bloom, the club’s associate psychotherapist. As a club we are acutely aware of the need to ensure that we are supporting our players in understanding their own mental health. Gary is hugely experienced working across elite support and works with a number of our young players helping them to be better equipped to cope with the ups and downs of life as a young man and young player. Although this kind of support might not make the back pages we believe it is a fundamental part of the work that we do here and we believe is one of the ways that marks us out as unique across the country.
On the grass it was great to see our U18s play their first ever competitive fixture at the new training ground this week in the EFL cup against local rivals Swindon. Many of our fans will already have seen the goals from the game as Leon Blackmore-Such and Chris Hackett’s side came out 3-1 winners thanks to a strong, all-round, team performance. It was particularly encouraging to see 2nd year scholars Fabio Lopes and Nico Jones put in dominant performances alongside new addition Fabio Sole who is growing into a “Cameron Brannagan-style” central midfielder since joining us from Reading. Our young players are acutely aware of the importance of fixtures like this against local rivals so when they put in a performance of real controlled quality it gives us as staff encouragement that they are making progress in their development.
Our younger age-groups also continue to make progress under the guidance of Phase Lead coaches Paddy O’Neale and Pablo Haysham. With scholarship decisions looming for our Under-16s, it has been positive to see Darren Purse’s young side continue to put in a series of positive performances – most noticeably a 6-1 win over Yeovil after a long journey last week. We remain committed to giving local young players a pathway through to the first team here at the club and this next group of players are fighting hard to try and ensure they can come in the building full-time for next season.
This time of the season sees us cast our mind back to last year when Academy Graduate Shandon Baptiste captained our first team against reigning Premier League Champions Manchester City in the League Cup. With West Ham, another Premier League side, in town this week we are looking forward to seeing over 50 of our Academy players attending the game to hopefully learn from watching players who compete at the top end of our game week in week out. These opportunities to learn are invaluable for young players and are just another way of ensuring that we continue to “invest in the lives of young footballers.”
Stay up to date with all things Academy by following the club’s official youth development account - @AcademyOUFC.
Proud History: Bright Future