Academy Manager Dan Harris writes
Last week a group of our Academy players and parents travelled up to watch the first-team FA Cup game at Newcastle, giving them another fantastic opportunity watch a Premier League side in action.
Within the Academy, we actively encourage our young players and staff to study elite performers in the game, not only within our own first-team squad, but also across the wider football world. With a replay at Grenoble Road on the horizon and with Man City and West Ham having already visited this season, our youngsters have certainly been given a series of fantastic opportunities to experience what the top of the English game looks like.
On the theme of cup competitions, it was hugely frustrating to see our Under 18s bow out of the FA Youth Cup up at Preston last week. In a fixture that had to be reversed after the cancellation due to heavy rain for the original game, our youngsters travelled up to Preston’s Deepdale stadium but didn’t perform at the level we know they are capable of. Learning how to adjust to playing on bigger stages is a crucial part of our young players’ development and this experience, although painful now, needs to act as a building block for them to ensure they step into the future challenges better equipped to perform at an elite level.
With regards to the next steps in the development process, all of our 17 and 18 year olds will now head out on loans/work experience over the next few months to give them exposure to the demands of senior football. We have a strong network of relationships across the local non-league pyramid, so there will be numerous opportunities for fans to see our young players performing across the Conference, Southern Premier and Hellenic Leagues over the weeks ahead. This is a key next step for our youngsters and, off the back of finishing second in the league after a resounding 7-1 victory against Plymouth in front of the first-team manager on Tuesday, these loans will ensure that the momentum of the first half of the season is built upon further.
Behind the scenes, I’d like to congratulate Jack McGowan, who has been promoted to Senior Academy Physiotherapist after impressing in his first year with the club. With the recent appointment of Andrew Caton as Head of Academy Medical & Sports Science, and with Jack having made a really strong start here at Oxford, our young players are in safe hands when it comes to the medical and sports science support they need.
Finally, I’d like to highlight again the important, upcoming conference being hosted here at Oxford United looking at psychological support across football. Any players, coaches, parents, fans or practitioners interested in this fantastically important part of player development and support will find the conference hugely valuable and can sign up at www.oxfordformula.co.uk . This one-day conference will see club psychotherapist Gary Bloom, first-team manager Karl Robinson and Academy Manager Dan Harris all presenting on their experiences around mental health support in football, alongside input from practitioners who have worked across both the Premier League and a range of other sports.
Stay up to date with all things Academy by following the club’s official youth development twitter feed: - @AcademyOUFC.