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YOUTH: The mentality has changed a lot

25 August 2016

Darren Edmondson with Wrexham match reaction

Academy manager Darren Edmondson gave us his reaction to last weekend’s excellent away win at Wrexham as his lads prepare for the first round robin fixture of this season’s Youth Alliance Cup against Hartlepool on Saturday.

“Winning with the last kick is a great way to win any game,” he said. “The result is obviously nice, but the good thing to come out of the day was our general play. We created some good chances, especially in the second half, and that will give the lads confidence.

“Full credit to Wrexham in the first half because they really took the game to us. We had a terrible journey down on the bus – not that I’m allowing the lads to use that as an excuse – and we were second best to everything until we got ourselves going. 

“Our keeper [Morgan Bacon] had to make some very good saves early on and it was one of his best personal performances, certainly since I got here.”

“It took four hours to get from Penrith to Wrexham and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it,” he explained. “It was the same coming back, but that’s what you get sometimes. I’ve been in first team changing rooms where bus journeys have been like that and all you do is get out there and do the job anyway.

“We looked lethargic and it needed guidance from myself and Dave [Wilkes] at half time. The lads responded and they came out after the break looking very dominant and playing very well.

“A draw would probably have been a fair result but it shows the spirit that’s been building over the last eight weeks or so. They’re turning into fledgling young footballers and the mentality has changed a lot since I first took over.” 

“I’m not taking any credit for that because Dave [Wilkes] knows what he’s talking about and what he’s saying to them,” he commented. “The lads have responded very well to what’s been asked of them. I think they’ve learned a lot and that’s showing in the way they perform on match days.

“We’ve said before that we don’t get too stressed by results, because this stage of their career is about learning. Clean sheets and wins helps the changing room but that’s the same at every level. Lads of this age get excited by it and ultimately that makes them perform better. 

“They’re telling me it’s the first away win they’ve had for a very long time and that’s something else which has got them buzzing. Football being the way it is you find that they’ll find the learning part easier if results are going their way because they can’t wait to get on the training ground and on the pitch.
 
“After the game last Saturday I told them to enjoy the way they’d won it but to keep in mind that they have to come into work every day ready to learn more. Their end goal isn’t to win the Youth League, it’s to get themselves nearer to the first team so they’re in with a chance of taking the next step, which is the one they all want to take.”

“The good thing for the lads is that there’s a good feeling around the club at the moment,” he said. “If the first team are doing well it tends to filter through to everybody and everything becomes enjoyable. Learning is a word I use a lot but these lads are still learning about their own bodies, what they can do and how far they can push themselves. 

“When it comes down to it, there are so many players who want to be part of Carlisle United’s first team squad and there just aren’t enough places. That means they’ve got to work hard and try to prove that they’re good enough to get a look-in. The gaffer has been great in that respect. The management staff have bought in to what we’re trying to do at youth level and that’s great for us.

“First and second years are being invited to take part in their training sessions all the time and, once they’ve overcome the initial nerves of being in there, they come back feeling great about themselves. That adds to the work we’re doing and we often see them doing different things, or trying things they wouldn’t have otherwise tried.”

“I can see ability in all of our lads but you can find, particularly with the first years, that they’re very nervous around the first team environment,” he told us. “I’ve been there myself, and because it’s new you don’t know how to be part of it, or how to grasp it. 

“They’re all feeling as if they’re much more part of their own squad now, which is good, but it does all take time. I’ve said before, there were issues we had to address from last year but hopefully we’re there with that now.

“Defensive work needed to be done and the clean sheets are there for everybody to see. Individual lessons are being learned as we go along and they’re working well as a unit. Hopefully we’re on an upward spiral.”

And when it comes to learning, we asked him how he was finding life in his new role now that the season is in full swing.

“It’s a different environment and I know I have to watch my P’s and Q’s,” he said. “You do pick up quickly on how fragile some of these lads are because you can forget that about young men, especially when they’re away from home. 

“It’s a tough environment, there’s no two ways about that, and that’s part of the reason why I brought David in. He’s been doing it pretty much all his managerial career and he knows what to say and when to say it. He knows which signs you need to look out for and I’m learning off him all the time.

“I used to take pride in trying to be close to players and finding out as much as I could about them mentally and physically. The mental side of football is big and, with young lads, it starts with things like making sure the accommodation is right for them. 

“You’re looking for leaders and followers and, with those who it doesn’t come naturally to, you want to tease the leadership skills out of them as well. As I said earlier, having a buzz around the club helps. 

“If you’re enjoying the environment you work in you tend to play your best football. You carry less psychological baggage and there’s no fear in your approach. That will always be when you’re at your best. It’s what’s going on between the ears that is sometimes the downfall for a lot of players, so a happy player has a much better chance.”

United – Bacon, Olsen, Hutchinson, Watson (Hodgson 85), Taylor, Groves, Egan, Breen (Goldthorpe 65), Brown, Salkeld, Cowburn (Lloyd 75). Subs – Ashton.

Goal – Taylor (91)

Next up – United v Hartlepool, Saturday 27 August, kick off 11am

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