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YOUTH: A different type of challenge

25 June 2016

Academy manager Darren Edmondson on his new role at the club

Former-United player and favourite Darren Edmondson left Brunton Park with over 250 appearances to his name 20-years ago but he made a return to his roots this week to take post as the Club’s Academy Manager.

We caught up with him to find out what it feels like to come back to the place where it all started as he looks to get his teeth into what is an important role.

“It feels amazing to be back,” he said. “When I got the call from the directors to say they were interested, and they spoke to me in-depth about the role, it became a no-brainer for me.

“I’ve come back to the club where it all started for me and it’s a club I love. Being a Cumbrian as well meant it was all set up nicely for me to return home, so to speak, and it’s just really nice to be here.”

“The place has changed over the years but the chairman is still here, and it was good to see him again,” he continued. “Andrew has been through a lot of ups and downs but he's a fantastic bloke. I had several meetings with him before I got the job and he made it clear he was interested in getting me back as one of the club’s own, if you like. 

“There are familiar faces around the place but the ground has changed because of the floods and things like that. I'm really excited to be coming back and hopefully with a lot of hard work I can make the youth team a success and we can produce endless amounts of players who can help the first team get to where the manager wants to take it.”

Speaking about his decision to accept the position, he said: “I wouldn’t say I thought about taking this route into youth football in particular, and there were potential non-league contracts elsewhere that were there for me to discuss. 

“Once I’d had the conversation with the chairman my mindset changed. Being back at Brunton Park was obviously a big pull, and being involved in the professional game with your home town club ... in my opinion I’d have been stupid not to take it.

“Hopefully what I’m good at is getting individuals to produce their best. The psychological side of football is ultimately what stops them from becoming very good at what they do. The first job David [Wilkes] and I have to do is to create an environment where these lads look forward to going onto the training ground every day. 

“I’ve watched a couple of days of training with the first team and I’ve seen how much they go out there to enjoy it. The experience of being a first team manager is something I’ll bring into this job because it’s about building relationships and trust with players so you can get a dressing room which can be successful.”

Having come through the youth system himself with United, and having gone on to forge a successful career as both a player and a coach, he certainly brings a wealth of experience to the role.

“The good thing about this job is that I came through the system and I know what it’s about,” he said. “I’ve also had the experience of managing a football club, but this is a completely different type of challenge.

“The whole 16 to 18 programme is about making sure your players are learning about football. It’s down to me, David and the rest of the staff at youth level to make sure we teach the young boys in all age groups everything they need to know. We want to make sure the journey they have is not only a good experience, but also a learning curve.

“I want to help the football club continue to produce a line of Cumbrians who can go on and play in the first team and help progress the club, if we can. That philosophy has always been here so it's just about finding the players. 

“We want to bring players like Matt Jansen through the system. That's not a step back in time in any way because we know they’re out there. My job now is to get the right staff below me to go out and find them and then, when we’ve done that, we have to improve them at the younger ages so they have the tools to progress all the way through.”

On how big the job ahead actually is, he said: “I haven't seen the players yet because they don’t come back in until Monday morning. I think I need to have met the group before I can determine exactly how big of a job it will be. 

“Obviously youth football now works under the EPPP guidelines but being a teacher is a beast in itself, so EPPP isn't too daunting. Sitting behind a computer and inputting data is something I've done for quite a few years, and the club is giving me every chance to get up to speed through training and things like that. 

“I want to be involved with every age group, as much as time permits. We've got some good staff in the academy, which Dave has been implementing for a number of years. He's up to speed and we've had chats about coaches and what we need. That's ongoing every day now.

“I’m really excited about the job ahead. As I said, I know what it feels like to come through it and I also know what it feels like as a Cumbrian when you run out onto that pitch. The way the local fans get behind you is amazing so this is a big role for me and I’m really looking forward to it.”

United PlayerHD subscribers can see an interview with Darren Edmondson now. Click HERE to go to the PlayerHD platform. Follow the same link for more information on United PlayerHD, and to subscribe.

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