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YOUTH: We're heading off to a fantastic set-up

Darren Edmondson on the trip to play in the Budapest tournament

15 August 2018

United's under-18 side heads off to Budapest this morning as they take part in a tournament which will see them play a series of Hungarian youth teams, along with Bristol Rovers, who will also be taking part in the trip.

We spoke to academy manager Darren Edmondson just before he checked the passports and reminded his charges of their baggage allowance for one last time.

“I think this will be a great experience for the boys," he told us. "We’re delighted to have got the funding through because it isn’t a recognised LFE [League Football Education] trip. It's been done through a private funding company.

"They approached us to gauge our interest and we said we’d love to do it, but only if we could get the funding. Thankfully that was all sorted and off we go."

"We're heading to a fantastic set-up just outside Budapest," he explained. "It’s one of their national football centres and we’ll play three games against Hungarian opposition while we’re out there.

"That will be good for the players and the staff, to see how other cultures work, and we’ve also got Bristol Rovers out there with us, which will be good as well. Fingers crossed it will be a good fortnight and it will give us the opportunity to implement some more team shape and fitness without there being too much riding on the games.

"It also gives the lads a great chance to bond. They all get on anyway, because they’re all quite local,  and nine out of the ten first years have came through our academy and they’ve been there a long time, so they’ve all played in the same team together.

"The second years are the same, so the team spirit is already very good. It’s now about getting their heads around the fact that they're now at work, and if there’s something to be done, on or off the pitch, they have to do it.

"It’s another chance for us to make this group even closer, and we all know that football wise if you’ve got a squad, which is together and pulling in the right direction, then it’s only going to be a plus."

On the unbeaten start to their league season, he commented: “Our two performances so far have been very good. I don’t know if we got our just rewards from the Shrewsbury game, but the Accrington game was a lot more of what we expect from the lads.

“The opposition had two attempts in the whole game which is a good comeback from them defensively. That shows that what we’ve been working on in training out of possession is hitting home. We also had six or seven first years starting that game which is another plus.

“Accrington finished in the bottom 8 last season, so it was important we got something from that game ahead of the two-week break we’re about to have. 

“We’re creating plenty of chances but on Saturday, and probably against Shrewsbury as well, we maybe should have been 3-0 up at half time. We’ve got to be positive, but there is still work to be done. None of these boys are finished articles, and that’s why they’re in our academy."

“We’ve got to keep working on the movement and the thought process, as well as making sure they don’t snatch at chances, particularly if they can pass it to someone in a better position," he told us. "If you watch Liverpool or Man City’s goals at the weekend, they will all pass to a team mate in a better position rather than shoot from a worse angle.

"That's an area of the game we're going to keep pushing them on. However, to score four away from home is a great achievement, and I shouldn’t be too negative. You can only beat what’s in front of you, and with the number of first years in the team it was a great result."

And as for the settling-in process, he said: “I think the first years are bedding in how we would want them to. The shape of the team and how myself and Gavin [Skelton] want them to play had been causing one or two of them an issue with regards to the tempo of it.

"I think they’ve found out it’s a complete and utter step-up fitness wise, but they’ve coped very well and they’ve worked hard over pre-season. In the first two games we’ve looked like a strong, physical team, and we’ve got people who can play football as well, which gives us a basis to try and win some games from."

On the injury situation, which has seen second year Josh Dixon ruled out for a prolonged period, he said: “We’re gutted for Josh because he was one of the stars during pre-season. He’d caught the new management team’s eye already, so that’s a sickener for him.

"He’s taken the news in a positive way and he’s spoken to Max Brown, who was in the same situation not too long ago.

“Belchior [Papa] has also been out with an injury after a bad tackle. We feared the worst, but he’s been back training this week, which is a plus. We may also have an issue with Jay Kelly, we think he’s done something to his cartilage.

"He’s having a scan on Tuesday in Darlington, so we’ll wait for the results and hope he isn’t out for too long."

We'll have updates from the under-18 group as the Budapest tournament progresses.

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