Academy manager Darren Edmondson on growing into his roleAcademy boss Darren Edmondson spoke to us about last weekend’s ding dong battle against Bury as the lads prepare for the game against Walsall on Saturday.
“The group has definitely taken a confidence lift from the game at the King Power Stadium,” he said. “However, what we’re asking of them now is if they can do it for us consistently.
“The latest game was a good example of that. Bury are a very good side and they’ve got some good players. Looking back they’ve had a decent production rate over the last few years.
“It was a great game and it was a lot like another cup tie, if I’m being honest. We hit the bar four times and they had one or two other good chances, so it could have ended at 8-8 if they’d all been put away.”
“The disappointing thing from our point of view was that we conceded three goals in the space of two minutes,” he continued. “That was difficult to take. The lads have reviewed the game for themselves to look at what they did as individuals, and then again so they could assess how they performed as a group.
“There are things we can work on with them over the next few days so that we hopefully won’t see the same mistakes made when we play Walsall. Conceding goals in quick succession can happen at all levels, and I think one or two of our lads were caught still thinking about the first goal they’d conceded when they were hit by the second. Before they knew it the ball was in and behind them again.
“As much as you’d like to have it, you just don’t get that time in football to think. It’s a great game but it can also kick you in the teeth very quickly if you allow it to. The disappointment I mentioned is because the second goal went in and then, yet again, they were behind us within seconds of the restart.
“The lesson could be that we have to move the ball away from our goal when we’re kicking off. It’s about getting mentally regrouped as quickly as possible, but these things do happen and we have to learn from them.”
“We were much better in the second half, once we got to grips with a few things,” he said. “The lads constantly tried to play football through all the thirds, which is what we’re asking of them, and we scored two excellent goals to get back in the game.
“It became a frantic last five minutes for Bury, but the flip side of that is they created another very good chance and they could have stretched their tally to five. As I say, we’ve looked at the game and we’ve asked the lads to make sure the intensity they showed through the last 20 minutes starts to become the norm for the full 90.”
On the importance of the performances from the second year players, he said: “We didn’t have Morgan [Bacon] because he’s away with Penrith as part of his football education. Jordan Holt was away with the first team, so he was missing, but the others showed that they want to do well.
“Jack Egan scored some really good goals and Max Brown was unlucky with hitting the woodwork so many times. The keeper pulled one of his shots from out of the top corner, and Cameron Salkeld had an excellent effort saved as well. All of these second year lads are stating their case for future reference.
“It just needs to be more consistent because the next two months is vital for all of them. We want them to be in the first team management’s eyes as much as possible. One or two trained with them yesterday and some played in a reserve game on Tuesday, so hopefully they’ll keep doing things right.”
Looking back at his first half-season as academy boss, he said: “I think my mindset has changed a little bit over the months. I learned very quickly that my focus on these lads is completely different to what it would be if they were adults.
“There’s a natural mental fragility attached to young lads because they’re only 16 and 17 years old when it comes down to it. Even some of the 18 year olds can be of a much younger mindset and frustrations can build very quickly with them.
“That can spoil their performance, as can nerves and anxiety, so the learning curve to allow me to come to grips with all of that has maybe taken me a while. Thankfully I’ve had Dave Wilkes to help and guide me with it.
“The frustrating things as a coach is watching from the sidelines and seeing things go wrong, particularly when they’ve been doing them right all week in training. There are mistakes in games which can be costly but, again, Dave is there to provide reassurance that what we’re doing with the boys on a daily basis is right.
“I have to say, it’s a job I love. At some stage I always hoped to come back to this football club and try to help to keep it evolving as a place, and hopefully I can do that for a few more years yet.”
Next up for the young Blues is a home game against Walsall on Saturday.
“Every game is difficult at this level,” he told us. “Possibly when, as we have, we’ve suffered with injuries to second years and others have been away with the first team it becomes more difficult for the younger players to find that consistency.
“We’ll be looking for improvements from last week in this game and we’ll want to see that one or two defensive issues have been eradicated. If we do that we’ll be very pleased, both as coaches and as a team.”