Academy manager Alan Moore on the Tranmere game
Academy manager Alan Moore spoke to us about the last youth team outing before Christmas against Tranmere as the lads gear up for the Burnley home game this weekend.
“It was a tough game for us to go into the break with,” he said. “They beat us 4-0 earlier in the season so we knew they were a decent outfit. It was a game played in strong winds and the team with the wind in each half dominated.
“We had one or two shining lights and it’s one we could have won. We came away with a defeat, but the whole point of what we're trying to do in the academy has been shown with Connor Hammell's progression over the last few weeks.”
“In our team talk before the Tranmere game we told them Connor was with the first team and that demonstrated there was an opening there for everybody,” he added. “It's a case of them putting in performances consistently so I can go and report back to the manager.
“Connor wasn't with us on that Friday so we had an idea he would be involved in the first team Northampton game on Saturday. I was sat in the stand, as were the two academy scouts who brought him in, so it finished off the weekend nicely for all of us. It's pleasing for them to see people they brought into the club years ago get a chance in this environment.
“It's also a massive pat on the back for the academy coaches who have seen him come through all of the age groups. What we're trying to do is push players onto the next level with everything we do and this shows the right type of attitude and application, in the right kind of learning environment, can make it happen.”
“Connor is a quiet lad who keeps himself to himself, so I've challenged him over the last few weeks to let his personality come out when he's got the ball at his feet,” he explained. “He’s done that and he’s been rewarded by the manager for it.
“He can do anything with the ball and he’s a joy to watch when he's with the youth team. I’ve been really pleased to see him come on and do the things he does with us in his two appearances so far.
“The only thing he needs to work on is his defensive side, but he’s doing that. I was over the moon for everybody that he went on and did himself justice because it can be difficult when you make your debut. For the manager to put him on as the first substitute when the game was still in the balance is a huge vote of confidence.”
“I say to all of the kids who get involved in the first team that they need to make sure it isn't a one off,” he said. “He has to do enough in training and make sure he doesn't think he's made it because he's had these two appearances. This should be the start of it. Once you've had a taste of it you want more, and he needs to make sure he gets it.”
“We gave the youth team some time off over Christmas but we trained again on the morning of the York game,” he explained. “They've still been in to do jobs, but they've been on a rota so they’ve had one day each. It's a shorter Christmas rest period for us this year so I've told the lads to go and make sure they mentally and physically rest.
“This second half of the season is huge for the second years. We've challenged them individually, and as a group, because we want them all to push on. Some of them are struggling with the pressure because it is a bit different, but it's all part and parcel of the game.
“It will take a couple of years to get the academy to where we want it to be but the way we're going at the moment is very pleasing. All the coaches have bought into what we're trying to do and the players are coming up to the standard we want. Things are looking good for us.”
“It’s now right back into it on Saturday morning with a home game against Burnley,” he said. “They’re a really good side and they always give us a test. It’ll be good to see how the lads deal with getting back into the swing of things having had their short break.”
United – Fowler, Moyes (Hurley 60), Marshall, Taylor (Rudd 60), Robson, Douglas, Blackburn, White, Bradbury, Quigley, Elliott (Pearson 73).
Next up – United v Burnley, Saturday 3 January 2015, kick off 11am