Academy manager Dan Harris writes:
With many areas of society currently adapting to another lockdown, a number of supporters have been asking about the current situation across the Academy programme here at Oxford United.
In line with government requirements and EFL guidelines we have moved our U7-U15s programme online for the next three weeks. Whilst this is frustrating for all involved, it is testament to the quality of our staff, players and parents that this transition has been negotiated with the absolute minimum of disruption. Our Foundation Phase Lead (and Acting YDP Phase Lead) Pablo Haysham alongside Head of Education & Player Care, Matt Jarvis have once again been instrumental in ensuring the quality of provision for our younger age groups remains high. YDP Strength & Conditioning Coach George Millbank has been overseeing our online conditioning programme; Head of Analysis Gavin Boorman is delivering online Hudl analysis tasks and Head of Academy Recruitment Gareth Hamer is ensuring our RTC is well resourced. As a result of all this support we are confident that our young players will return to the grass in December ready to crack on.
Whilst our younger age groups have been impacted, Our U16s, U18s and U21s programmes are all continuing during this lockdown period. Although, like in other parts of the club, we have had to once again furlough a small number of staff, we know that, through the work of our team over recent years, the Academy programme is strong enough to weather the challenges of the next three weeks.
Behind the scenes, fans will have seen that Chris Allen has moved on from the club after many years of service. As previously mentioned, all in the Academy wish Chris Allen and his family well for the future - as a long time servant of Oxford United, we appreciate all that Chris did during his time with us and thank him for his work over the years across the various roles that he held.
Looking ahead, I wanted to officially confirm that Leon Blackmore-Such and Chris Hackett will now be responsible for leading and developing all of our Professional Development Phase coaching here at the Academy. As Lead PDP Coach, Leon Blackmore-Such has done a fantastic job with our U18s over the last six years and, with Chris Hackett having also recently completed his A-Licence, this wider responsibility that now also encompasses our U21s will certainly not phase either of them.
Across the top part of our youth development programme we have made the decision to run with smaller numbers this season. By operating with sixteen rather than eighteen scholars; removing the full U23s age group and replacing it with eight young pro’s/3rd year scholars in the U21s, we believe we will be better able to prepare young players for Senior football. Smaller groups means our players having more opportunities to play with older age groups; are more likely to experience loan football at an earlier age; will get more individual development work and potentially we be able to train more regularly with the Senior players.
Having seen the way that Leon and Chris H have worked together over the last three years and with the support of myself, Les Taylor and all our staff, I have no doubt that the development of our U18s and U21s is in safe hands for the months and years ahead.
On the theme of development, I wanted to highlight a few other positives from the last few weeks that fans and parents may have missed:
- Congratulations to 19-year old midfielder Leon Chambers-Parillon who marked his Senior debut with an assist vs Walsall helping our 1st Team top their EFL trophy group.
- Welcome to U16 midfielder Enrique Tiamuna who has agreed his scholarship for next season joining forward Gatlin O’Donkor as the 1st two players officially confirmed for next season.
- Congratulations to sixteen-year olds Eddie Brearey and Josh Anifowose who were named in this weeks EFL Trophy squad vs Walsall.
- Congratulations to 18 year-old striker Slavi Spasov who continues to perform well on his loan in the National League with Woking.
Certainly still plenty of challenges across the footballing landscape but also loads to be positive about as we look ahead for the rest of this season and beyond!
Stay up to date with all things Academy by following the club’s official youth development twitter feed - @AcademyOUFC.