Eric Kinder on a year with the youth team
The second and final part of our youth review with Eric Kinder ...
How does that conversation (professional contract offer) with Greg work? We sit down with Kav [Graham Kavanagh] and I speak first, and I’ll tell them who I think deserves a contract. They ask questions, give their opinions and then discuss the way they have seen the lads train and play, particularly with the reserves and with the first team. The manager then takes a few moments to make his decision before we call the player in to let him know.
It’s a huge thing, isn’t it, because if a player gets a contract he effectively takes up a space in the squad which is vital to the manager? Yeah, because we all know that finances are tight here, so we have to consider it all very carefully. I think our decision this time has been justified because they are all involved with the first team.
Are there any over your last six and a half years with the club where you think you might have got the decision wrong? Stephen Hindmarch is one that will always haunt me. People blame me for that one even though I’ve said several times that it wasn’t my decision. It’s one we should have done something about, but the manager at the time said no. I’m pleased to see Ryan [Bowman] and Andy [Cook] doing well in the conference and I don’t think Greg [Abbott] will mind me saying that I was a big supporter of those two. It’s the manager’s decision at the end of the day, and if I was in that position I’m sure there would be somebody else who would disagree with me. I certainly disagree with Dave Wilkes when he tries to push the under 16’s up to me, and I’ll say no if I don’t think it will work. But the big one for me was Hindmarch because he was such a talented boy. His problem was that he came across as being too laid back and ultimately that worked against him.
Your grumbles with the group we have now have been our work-rate off the ball and the fact that we don’t keep clean sheets. How are you trying to address that? With a back four of second years, and a second year goalkeeper, we shouldn’t concede the number of goals we do. So, you’re right, it’s a massive grumble of mine. We have started to look stronger in that area and that’s because we’ve battered the back four; we’ve had them in morning and afternoon because we knew it was a problem for us. We got a clean sheet against Bury in our last league game before Christmas and that was as pleasing as winning the game. The other grumble has to be that we don’t work hard enough when we don’t have possession. We do have a couple of egos in the dressing room, which can be a strength and a weakness. They think they just have to concentrate on going forward but they have a lot of other work to do. We need to be better off the ball and defensively, but going forward we are a massive threat. We don’t really have a natural goal scorer in our side so our goals have been spread out this year. We’ve had people like Ryan Bowman, Gary Madine and Mark Beck scoring more than 20 goals in a season in the last couple of years, but we haven’t found that in this side. Again, if we are scoring goals and they’re spread out then we have to see it as a bonus.
Do we have a genuine shot at the league and the Youth Alliance Cup this time round? We always go for it because our aim is to finish as high as we possibly can. I think we’ve lost four games now, but we only actually deserved to lose one when we were awful at Blackpool. We were three up at Burnley and we should have been out of sight, so to lose that one in the way we did was devastating. Port Vale beat us at home but we had an unbelievable amount of possession. The problem that day was that we just couldn’t score. The other one was the Preston game and, again, I have to say that we should have won it.
You’ve done some restructuring behind the scenes with Chris Blake as your performance analyst and coach, and with Kate Gascoigne as your physio. How has that gone for you? That has been really good. Chris and Kate have both been a massive plus, even though I don’t get to see much of Kate during the week. She is part of the overall medical team so her focus is there, and she’s doing a fantastic job. Chris is the one I see day-to-day and he works very closely with me. We can now video our games and analyse them, and it allows us to concentrate on different areas. The lads get to see it on the big screen and we can both then take whatever we have discussed into our coaching sessions. I still do the main session on a morning but we then break it down and concentrate on specific areas in the afternoon. It is working very, very well for us and I think it has made us stronger in terms of what we deliver to our U18 group. The downside to the way we had to restructure for EPPP was the fact that we had to lose Geoff Haugh. He became a close friend of mine over the years and I’ve missed him, if I’m being honest. That’s no disrespect to anyone, it’s more the fact that we got on so well.
Is youth football at Carlisle United heading in the right direction? I think the fact that we have players who are now appearing in the first team on a regular basis suggests the answer to that is yes. I don’t think we can ever rest on our laurels but if we can keep this level of work going then we will be pleased. My hunger and desire to keep doing the job comes from seeing lads I have worked with go on to make a real go of it. We’ve talked about the recent group who are playing now, but there are other lads playing at other clubs and different levels who mean just as much. I love seeing them progress. If I can keep playing a small part in helping some of them along, and I can keep bringing others into it all, then I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.
for part one of this interview.
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