Academy Manager Dan Harris writes:
As we approach the end of 2020 it gives us all the opportunity to reflect on what has been a uniquely challenging period across society for everyone.
Within the Academy programme there has been a huge amount to look back on with a quiet sense of pride as we now turn our attention to how we can keep getting better into 2021 and beyond.
The oldest age group across the Youth Development programme is our U21s who, being a group of just eight players, has enabled us to really dial in on the individual development needed for these players to then take the next step into regular First Team football.
From this group Michael Elechi and Leon Chambers-Parillon have both made debuts for Karl Robinson’s 1st Team in 2020 whilst Kyran Lofthouse and Slavi Spasov are both playing regularly as teenagers in the National League with Woking. Centre Forward Slavi has played more minutes in the National League than any other 18-year old so far this season underlining the potential he has having fought back from a serious injury that wiped out last season for him.
Both our U21s and U18s programmes are led by Leon Blackmore-Such and Chris Hackett and it has been encouraging to see so many of our new First year scholars playing in the Youth team regularly each week under their tutelage. Whilst winning leagues is not the end goal at this level it is nonetheless encouraging to see our young Yellows fighting hard at the top of the table again as we work to ensure they all understand what it means to represent this club.
With U16s striker Gatlin O’Donkor having also made a senior debut and 1st year scholar goalkeeper Eddie Brearey having already featured on the bench there is another wave of young players developing positively underneath those mentioned above that we will continue to support each day.
Across the schoolboy programme, whilst there has been significant disruption caused by the lockdowns, we are proud that we have been able to maintain a meaningful training and games programme through this time whilst also keeping players, parents and staff safe.
Our Head of Education & Player Care Matt Jarvis and Lead Phase Coach Pablo Haysham deserve credit for the work the have done co-ordinating this part of the programme but I’d also like to put on record my thanks to every part-time and full-time staff member who have shown agility, patience and resilience in the face of the ongoing Covid challenge. We appreciate the work that everyone has put in and look forward to cracking on again in 2021.
Finally, on behalf of myself and everyone across the Academy programme, I’d like to wish all of the club's players, parents, staff and supporters a very Happy Christmas and a positive New Year. We know how challenging it has been for everyone over the last 9 months but know that there are plenty of positive days ahead and plenty to be excited about as we look to the future here at Oxford United.
Stay up to date with all things Academy by following the club’s official youth development twitter feed - @AcademyOUFC.
Best wishes and a Happy Christmas.