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YOUTH: Review of 2012 part one

10 January 2013

Eric Kinder on a year with the youth team

Youth boss Eric Kinder gave us his thoughts on 2012 with the U18 set-up at Brunton Park ...

We had an amazing end to last season, and we’ve had a good start to this season, so what are your thoughts on it all? We had a really good night at Fulham in the FA Youth cup last December [2011] and we should have got something out of it. As we turned into the New Year we had a great chance of doing something in the league but, unfortunately, we didn’t get that Fulham game out of our system. We lost at Rochdale in our first game back and then we lost to Bury. I think by February we were in a position where we couldn’t affect the league, so we started looking towards what we could do for this season. We had five of our second years who were fighting for a professional deal – Adam Gill and Dan Jones had already been released – and they became our main priority. With that in mind we started to play well again and we had a really strong end to the season, which I was more than happy with. 

Looking at those five lads in particular, how far along were you and Greg in terms of making a decision when we got into January last year? We hadn’t even talked about it. We tend not to broach the subject until March. Obviously I know in my own mind how they’re doing, but we have to leave it as long as we possibly can. With absolutely no disrespect to Lance McGlen intended, the day we finally told them all was a good day for us. It’s always good to see these lads get something when you’ve worked so closely with them for two years. Lance was actually the one who looked most promising at the start of that season but, and for whatever reason, he tailed off. I sat the other four down [Symington, Potts, Todd and Beck] after they had been given their contracts and told them in no uncertain terms that the work was just starting for them. I told them all that their main aim had to be to get near the first team and to do enough to get another deal before their first season as a professional was over. I had no idea it would go as well as it has for them. I went up and watched them train just before Christmas and they are unrecognisable. They aren’t the people who left me last year - they’re confident young men now. 

How disappointing was last January when the shot at the title tailed off? If you’d asked me before we came back from our winter break I would have told you that we were contenders. But, and I don’t mind going back to this, if you’d given me the choice of winning the league or getting one player through to a professional contract then I will take the contract every time. So, you can imagine what it’s like to get four of them through. For everybody who has seen the four young lads play this season, I’m sure they would probably agree that I’m not bothered where we finish in the league as long as we get that every Saturday. I know the first team haven’t had a great season results wise, because of the injuries and everything else, but I have taken great pleasure out of watching four of my young players do what they’ve been doing. It really is an incredible feeling.

The focus was obviously around those five lads, but it’s fair to say you’re quite excited about your current second years as well? Yes, I think most of them are doing themselves justice, but you’re never going to get everyone through. No decisions have been made about the current group yet and I think the ones we expected to come through are on the right path, as we speak. Overall you have to say this has been a fantastic twelve months for us.

How did you feel in pre-season when you were looking at the group you’d been left with? The young lads got to grips with it really quickly and I was impressed at how fast they picked things up. You have to start again every year and my strong second years are pulling us through games at the moment. You want to see that though and, again, they have been a pleasure to work with.  The new group had a flying start to this season ... but we’ve had a couple of hiccups along the way as well. As we come into the New Year we’re in the quarter final of the Youth Alliance Cup and I feel that we’re in good shape.

When you’re looking at the group who are pushing through for this first half of the season, are they where you want them to be right now? Yes, they are. Some are ahead of where I thought they’d be and some have given me a few surprises in how well they have coped. Some have slipped back a bit, but that will always happen. One or two of the first years have been really good so I’m looking forward to seeing how they deal with being a second year. It’s always interesting to see who does what because it changes month by month.  That’s why the manager never speaks to me about the second years until March, because I think you’d make the wrong decisions if you did it any earlier than that.

Click HERE for part two of this interview.

United Player subscribers can see a three-part video interview with Eric Kinder now. Click HERE to go to the Player platform. Follow the same link for more information on United Player, and to subscribe.

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