Academy Manager Dan Harris writes:
This week I wanted to shine a light on the progress that has been made behind the scenes on a part of the club’s Youth Development programme that many fans might not be fully aware of.
As an EFL Academy we currently run age group sides from U9s through to our U21s squad – the last level before players transition into first team football.
Alongside this programme we are constantly looking at finding ways of ensuring that the best youngsters across our region who are not currently registered as Academy players are also part of the work that we do.
Our Head of Academy Recruitment Gareth Hamer, who has previously worked at Aston Villa and West Brom has, over the last 18 months, built up our Regional Training Centre Programme to the point where we now have over 150 of the best unsigned players in the region training and playing regularly under the Oxford United banner.
These “Oxfordshire RTCs” are designed to support the grassroots landscape by offering Academy-level coaching to players who want to access this provision but also ensure that there is a clear development pathway for those individuals who have the potential to become Academy players.
As I write this update, we have so far seen 19 players from the RTCs earn trials with the Academy over the last twelve months resulting in SIX of these becoming signed Academy players. In addition to this we have seen three staff members from the RTC go on to become Academy coaches continuing the tradition across the Youth programme of providing a development pathway for not only for players but staff as well…
Working alongside the club’s charity. who are doing some fantastic work across the wider community, these RTCs in Bicester and at the Training Ground in Oxford, along with the growth in the Women’s programme over recent years all show the importance of committing to a strategic, joined up approach as we all build for a bright future.
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 Slavi Spasov & Fabio Lopes who both put in man of the match performances in their first loan games for Woking and Biggleswade Town respectively, Slavi also scoring the winner for Woking against Weymouth last night.
- Welcome back to the club Academy graduate Aaron Heap who joins the club as a new U9s coach this season.
- Congratulations to 18-year old Michael Elechi and Oxford-based Academy product Kyran Lofthouse who have both been training regularly with the first team over the last two weeks and made full debuts last night
Whilst the challenges of the Covid landscape continue to impact our ability to move forward as quickly as we would like, there are still plenty of reasons to be positive about the progress that the whole club can make as we look at the season ahead.
Stay up to date with all things Academy by following the club’s official youth development twitter feed - @AcademyOUFC.