Academy manager Darren Edmondson on his pre-season preparations
We caught up with Academy Manager Darren Edmondson to talk about his pre-season preparations with the U18 side.
“Physically the lads are up to speed with where we'd like them to be,” he told us. “I’m getting to know the players but it's all about characters and working out how they respond, and what they respond to. As the season goes on we'll implement different things to help them learn more about football.
“We’ve been unlucky in that we’ve picked up two long-term injuries. Kieran Hall and Jordan Holt will be sidelined with fractures and that’s frustrating for them and us. They’re both fit lads though and I’m sure they will work with our medical department, within the constraints of their rehab programmes, to get back as quickly as possible.”
Speaking about the need to balance gaining a winning mentality with the importance of the lessons to be learned, he said: “Results are important, of course they are, but these players are on a two-year learning curve where they've got to learn how to play football in specific positions and formations.
“They also have to hope they grow into their bodies quickly and show that physically they can push for a first team squad place in one or two year’s time. We’re working on that every day but we’re going through a little bit of a culture change.
“We want things to be done a certain way and we want to see people with smiles on their faces. That means they’ll be enjoying their work. The tempo to training is very good but there needs to be that enjoyment element around so it becomes a better place for them to learn their trade.”
“There is a need to get that winning mentality into the group because the individuals who get to the top have got that in them,” commented. “There's only so much coaching and pushing in the right direction you can do. From there you have to see that they are starting to grasp it.
“At some point the second years have got to stand up and be counted and stick their shoulders out to put themselves in the shop window. It's a big year for them but it isn't the end of the world if it doesn't happen here. Doors will open elsewhere, so they do have time on their hands.”
On settling into the job, he said: “It's never an easy job at youth level to try and make professionals out of people but it's one myself and Dave [Wilkes] are both looking forward to. As I say, the good thing is that when we come on the training pitch there is now an atmosphere where everybody is enjoying themselves.
“It’s been good to see them in game situations. The lads have shown a lot of character and they’re learning that it’s about showing it in the right ways. That could be by winning a tackle or making that extra 30 yard run for your team mate.
“All of that comes from changing the mentality. It's not about any one individual, it's about the group winning matches. Everyone will produce their best form when they're full of confidence and enjoying their jobs.”
And on looking ahead to the first game of the season against Preston, he said: “I would hope the lads are all playing for a starting place. We've still got a couple of pre-season games left so I would hope they're all looking to try and make sure they're in the starting 11 against Preston.
“Everyone is getting lots of minutes under their belt at the moment and fitness levels are going in the right direction. The players have all got that determination in them and that will probably be the final factor as to whether they make it. There's lots of ability there, but you've got to bring it out from yourself - and that comes from within.”
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