Academy Manager Dan Harris writes
I wanted to start this latest update by passing on my best wishes to every player, parent, staff member and supporter associated with Oxford United. As senior staff at the club we are acutely aware of the physical, mental and logistical challenges associated with being in another National Lockdown but we are also fully committed to ensuring we do all we can during this period to support, develop and encourage everyone involved in the life of this fantastic club.
Looking across Academy age groups gives plenty of reasons to be positive at a time when our society needs something to smile about!
90% of our small U21s group have continued with their loan spells over the Christmas period giving them crucial experience of Senior Football. As we saw from this weekend’s unique FA Cup ties, young players need to be ready at a moment’s notice to step in to senior football and. having some of our eighteen and nineteen year olds playing in the National League and National League South, means that they have the opportunity to show that they can compete against more experienced professionals. I’d like to thank Havant & Waterlooville FC; Woking FC and Chippenham Town who are all supporting the development of our players at this time.
In our U18s scholarship programme, whilst the frustration of not currently playing games certainly bites, the way that our players and staff have adjusted to an online programme at present is testament to their professionalism.
Supporters will know that our Youth Team are currently one point of the top of the table and while winning leagues is not the end goal at this level we do take pride in trying to produce players with a fierce commitment to winning games and setting elite standards.
Off the field these standards are also crucially important and, as has been the case throughout my time here, we want to create a culture based on a value system that shows a clear understanding of the responsibility that comes with the privilege of being a young player at Oxford United.
Over the Christmas period two of our young players let themselves down with their decision making and failed to show the level of respect for our club and indeed society as a whole that we would expect during these times. As a club we have dealt with this situation efficiently and privately behind the scenes but it is also important to recognise that young players do sometimes get things wrong. As a club, we have to ensure that our standards of conduct are adhered on a consistent basis but we also need to balance this against supporting young players as they learn what it means to become high quality men.
Across our schoolboy age groups we are seeing a huge amount of activity and development in the online programme but, perhaps more importantly, we are also seeing a genuine sense of players and parents rallying together to support those around them during these difficult times.
I’d like to particularly mention one of our Foundation Phase players Owen Lobb who, over the last three weeks, has single-handedly raised over 3000 pounds for local homeless projects having been struck by the numbers of people sleeping rough in the region.
We are very proud of Owen and all our young players who consistently demonstrate that they understand what our club stands for…certainly a story to put a smile on our faces during these challenging times!
Best wishes to you all from all at the Academy – plenty of positive days ahead!
Stay up to date with all things Academy by following the club’s official youth development twitter feed - @AcademyOUFC.