Academy Manager Dan Harris writes
Proud History: Bright Future
Over the course of the Christmas period fans will undoubtedly have heard and read numerous articles talking about the fixture load for players at this time of year. There is no doubt that the physical and mental load on players and First Team staff over the festive period is huge and so it is testament to the work that has gone in from numerous people around the club here at Oxford that the First Team have performed so well during this run of games.
For our younger players the festive period and its multitude of games brings with it an opportunity to impress Karl and his staff as a number of our scholars and U21s have had the opportunity to train and play alongside their senior counterparts. It was positive to see second year scholar Fabio Lopes make another First Team appearance off the bench in the Hartlepool game last weekend and these last couple of weeks have also seen teenagers Tyler Goodrham, Jack Stevens, Nico Jones, Leon Chambers-Parillon, Fabio Sole, Aaron McCreadie, Callum Crook, Kevin Berkoe and Kyran Lofthouse all train at various points with the First Team group. The opportunity to go up against seasoned professionals in training is a fantastic opportunity for our young players and the likes of Jamie Mackie, John Mousinho and others have been great at helping our youngsters adjust to the realities of Senior Football!
On the realities of Senior Football, we have worked hard this season to improve the loan experiences for our U21s players as we continue to try and play our part in building a bright future here at Oxford United. Teenagers Kevin Berkoe and Kyran Lofthouse particularly have benefited from playing ten games each in the Conference South with Oxford City as part of their extended loan spells with both lads, along with Aaron McCreadie at Hayes & Yeading and Owen James at Chalfont having scored their first senior goals. Kyran particularly has been a real threat with 3 goals and 3 assists in his 9 games so far helping City to climb the table over recent weeks…Chris Allen, myself and our Head of Academy Analysis Gavin Boorman have all been out at various points over the Christmas period to watch these loan players and the hope is that they, along with others, will follow the flightpath of Shandon Baptiste who, now at the age of 21, is showing the benefit of being exposed to Senior football on loan whilst still a teenager.
Alongside the highlights of the last few weeks, the New Year bought real sadness with the passing of both Jon Shuker and, tragically, Forest Green Rovers U-18s coach Chris Barker who was known to many of our staff here at Oxford. Both men, in different ways had helped shape the lives of young footballers and Chris’s passing particularly at the age of just 39 highlights again how precious life is and certainly puts the game into perspective – the thoughts and prayers of everyone at the club are with all those who knew both Jon and Chris.
As we look ahead to 2020 there is plenty to be positive about for everyone associated with Oxford United – thanks to everyone for their ongoing support of the Youth Development programme and Happy New Year to you all.
Stay up to date with all things Academy by following the club’s official youth development twitter feed - @AcademyOUFC.