EDS & Academy

Wilkinson pleased by Under-18s progression

Wilkinson pleased by Under-18s progression
City Under-18s head coach Ben Wilkinson has expressed his satisfaction at what he terms 'a pretty pleasing' first two months of the campaign.

With our Under-18s not in action this weekend due to our Under-18 Premier League game with Liverpool being postponed, it has given Wilkinson and his players a brief respite and a chance to take stock.

Appointed to the role in the summer, Wilkinson has overseen a more than satisfactory start to the Under-18 Premier League campaign with City lying in second position in the Northern section, eight points off leaders Blackburn but with two games in hand.

City are also unbeaten after the first two games in the Under-18 Premier League Cup with Wilkinson equally happy with the way his young charges are learning and developing.

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“It has been pretty pleasing - I think all the things we set out to do we are on track with,” the head coach asserted.

“Performance levels on the whole have been pretty high in terms of what we look for.

“Results have been quite good and, most importantly, the individual development side has been quite high.

“I think we have played eight games across all competitions. I’d say probably six or seven of those we were really pleased with how we played.

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“We’ve had a lot of players in the EDS or the UEFA Youth League or Papa John’s Trophy team which is great.

“A lot of these lads are still just 16 and have just come out of school and are getting thrust into that environment really early and they have done well.

“That has been really pleasing and probably the biggest tick so far so, all in all, it’s gone well quite well I’d say.”

In terms of progression, while several of Brian Barry-Murphy’s Elite Development Squad have gained vital first team experience with six youngsters making their senior debut in last month’s Carabao Cup win over Wycombe, a number of our Under-18s have enjoyed a first taste of Under-23s football.

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The likes of Rico Lewis, Nico O’Reilly, Jadel Katongo, Isaac Smith and more latterly Luca Barrington have all featured either in PL2, the UEFA Youth League or the Papa John’s Trophy.

And Wilkinson says those type of intense experiences will only help accelerate their collective learning.

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“For Rico, Nico, Jadel, Isaac and now Luca - to have all started games in several competitions all at the age of 16 – one has only turned 16 a few weeks ago – that’s a great achievement for them,” Wilkinson added.

“Deserved as well as they have done well.

“But when it comes, you have got to take the opportunity. If you are good enough, you are old enough.

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“The boys have done well, they have taken their chance when they have moved up and made a good impression so that’s been the most pleasing thing as that’s kind of what we are here to do.”

From a personal perspective, Wilkinson said he was hugely enjoying the role and he described the environment at the City Football Academy as the ‘perfect learning environment.’

“I’ve really enjoyed it. This is the second year I’ve worked with a lot of these lads, so I know them quite well and I’ve really enjoyed that side of it and working with the staff,” the head coach added.

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“We have a really good group with the Under-18 team and are just trying to deliver high quality training sessions and improved individuals on and off the pitch and it has been really good so far.

“We learn off each other every day and we’ve got other resources around us with the first team and we work closely with the Under-23s staff as the groups are so closely entwined

“For it to work, the communication has to be so thorough and from a learning point of view as a young coach it’s amazing.

“It’s a perfect learning environment for us all.”

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