City’s promising crop of young players will be stronger for the experience gained in the recent defeat in the FA Youth Cup.
That’s the opinion of the club’s Academy Director Mark Allen, who says that a younger than usual Under 18 side quickly got over the disappointment of being knocked out of this year’s competition by Nottingham Forest earlier this month.
There is always hope that each City youth team will be able to match the cup-winning exploits of the 2008 vintage, but Mark and all the staff at the Platt Lane complex are putting great emphasis on nurturing each individual within the team context.
City’s goal against Forest came from one of their youngest players, George Evans, and Mark thinks that followers of the youth team can take great heart from the development of the side, many of which will still be at the Academy next season or beyond.
“We did not like losing, but we looked at it afterwards and we had a 16 year-old goalkeeper and a central midfielder that had only just turned 16 who can play for the next three years,” says Mark
“They played in a good stadium on a great pitch – that’s development. That outweighs all of the other considerations. We have a better chance of bringing those players through for the experience they had there. That outweighs winning a cup.
Of course we try to win but it is not win at all costs here, it’s about playing in a certain way and by doing that the lads will learn more about the game of football.
“It’s about communicating our consistency about this over developing players to the parents, and the more they see that in action the penny will start to drop about playing players up the age groups. It’s not just about playing your best side every Saturday, it’s a different philosophy now.”
There is a desire at the Academy to match what happens in senior football regarding shuffling the playing resources so that there will be little ‘culture shock’ when players step up to the next level.
Mark continues, “The game has changed. Players face more competition for places at first team level with domestic, cup and European football to play in, so you need a squad. The reality is that you have to have as many available as possible, and it is no different at youth level with the number of games we play. We have to have the ability to refresh players and give everyone a chance.
“Good league position is a target, but we believe in playing the right way, and if you do that I believe invariably you will win more than you lose. The league position demonstrates the camaraderie of the team, their focus on learning and the strength in depth. Players have been able to step in and that’s a big part of what we are trying to build here.”