Dan Harris writes
Over the course of any Academy week, there are always moments where you can see real progress in both the development of the programme and of the individual players within in it.
On Tuesday we hosted an U21s fixture against QPR at the training ground in what was a real throwback to the old reserve team fixtures of 20 years ago. A side made up of three or four senior players alongside a group of our most promising 17, 18 and 19-year olds played out a really competitive game in front of first-team staff from both sides. As an Academy we have worked hard this year to stretch and challenge all our young players in a variety of ways and, in keeping with this, we brought a number of them back from their loans to play in this game, ensuring that their development could be seen by everyone at the club. It is fantastic to see the first-team squad performing so well at the moment and it is also really encouraging to see this “shadow squad” underneath the senior group also making real progress.
In our younger age groups, at the weekend we took on Swindon as we work to ensure that every young player in our building understands the importance of local derbies of this kind! We’ve also had sides playing Tottenham Hotspur, Swansea City and Liverpool over recent weeks as we build a games programme that challenges all our youngsters in a variety of ways.
I’d like to congratulate George Franklin and Tyler Andrews, who won our player of the month awards for February. Both players have demonstrated outstanding attendance, performance levels and character, which combine as the three requirements for being awarded this prize – we want to develop young men who understand what it means to carry themselves with a real integrity as we play our part in developing the next generation of leaders across this county, and both Tyler and George have epitomised our values over the last few weeks.
Away from Oxford United, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to David Oldfield, who has taken over as first-team manager at Oxford City. As an Academy we have worked hard to build strong relationships with the staff at Oxford City who do a great job providing opportunities for hundreds of young players each week to play at a really competitive level. Having chatted with David and Justin Merritt over the last few days, there is certainly a commitment to continue building on this relationship over the months and years ahead from both clubs and I’m sure David’s appointment will be another step forward in this. Everyone at OUFC wishes David, Justin and the rest of the management team well.
In closing, I do need to mention the current coronavirus situation from an Academy standpoint. Clearly the safety and wellbeing of everyone associated with the programme remains our number one priority; we have been following the Public Health England guidelines on this matter and have been talking regularly with our medical and leadership teams to ensure that we are acting with an appropriate level of caution as we continue to run our programme. At the time of writing, we are proceeding with our programme with the addition of a number of precautions which parents have already been consulted on. As with the rest of the game, we will monitor the situation closely and act appropriately as and when required.
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