Academy manager Alan Moore on settling in at Brunton Park
Academy manager Alan Moore spoke to us in the wake of the seventh match postponement since the U18 group got back together at the turn of the year.
“We still haven't had chance to play a competitive game yet but we have had a couple of good friendlies,” he said. “We played an u18 game down at Wigan last week which the lads did really well in. It's good for them to get minutes under their belt as a team because, although some of them have played in the development squad games, they haven't been able to play together.
“We actually haven’t been able to get them playing as a team since I came in, which was seven weeks ago now, so it’s important for them to get some minutes in and build up an understanding with each other. They applied themselves really well against Wigan and we scored some decent goals on the day.”
“The second years are starting to worry about decisions regarding contracts so it's extra important for them to be playing games,” he continued. “We obviously see them every day in training but they need to be out there and doing it. We need to see if they've got the game understanding and the intelligence that the manager needs. They are evaluated on a day-to-day basis, we record everything they do on and off the pitch, but it's good to see them in game situations.”
“Since the EPPP finished at the end of January we've been able to really focus on training and I've got to know the lads a lot better,” he confirmed. “From my point of view getting to know the lads is one of the most important things because I've got 16 different personalities in that dressing room. Some of them need a kick up the backside every now and then and others need an arm around their shoulder. I'm getting to know what makes each one of them tick at this stage.
“We are coming to decision day for the second years which is always a difficult time. We told the u16s a few weeks ago and the ones who didn't get taken on were at the exit trials on Wednesday. It's a nervous time for the lads but it's no different to what they'll go through later in their careers. A lot of professional players are only signing one-year or short term deals at the moment. That means they're constantly under pressure so it’s something they need to be able to deal with.”
“We're well ahead of schedule in terms of being ready for next season,” he said. “We know what the players we've got are capable of and we're looking at lads from other teams from u21 level down. People are always recommending players to us so it’s an ongoing process. We have to be honest and say that some of the players we have are settling for being here and not trying to push on. Our aim is to take the club to the next level so we want players who aren't just happy to be in the club. They need to want to take it a bit further.
“There are an awful lot of players who think that when they've signed a contract they've made it. Really that is where the hard work starts because it's a lot tougher being a scholar than being in the u16s. Let’s face it, it’s even more difficult to be a young pro. If you get past that it gets tougher again because you're a senior pro and three points are essential every Saturday. We have to make sure that they all know they need to have that drive and desire constantly, and that’s why we're giving them all personal programmes. They then have something to work towards because it shows them they aren't a complete player.”
And with most of the EPPP auditing process now complete, he said: “We've done the interview stage of the EPPP audit but the game they were meant to be watching was cancelled, which was frustrating. That means they're going to have to come back at the end of March but it isn’t as intense as the interviews and paperwork. We're fairly comfortable with where we are but nobody knows if we've done enough to get the Category Three status until the results come out. We’re confident that we know what we need to do though.
“We've got season-long programmes in place for every age group so we're looking at how each player is developing and the progress they're making. On top of that we need to make sure they all have that pathway into the first team. They need to be able to make the transition from u16 level to u18 level as easily as possible and we can help them do that by making sure all of the teams play and train the same way as the first team. That starts at the u8 level, so it's a ten year plan that we've got for the lads at the moment.”
“Everything is much clearer than last time we spoke,” he told us. “I've been here two months now and I'm happy with the bodies we've got in at the moment. We’ve identified the U16s we want for next year and we've already started highlighting players in other age groups, especially the U15s, who are possible scholars for the future. Overall we have taken a very proactive approach and I think that will pay dividends for us.”
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