United’s under-18 side was left feeling frustrated last Friday as their trip to face Walsall in what would have been their first game of the New Year was cut short, just as they reached Knutsford Services, as news came through that the game had been postponed due to the poor state of the pitch.
The last outing for the young Blues was over a month ago – a Tuesday afternoon home game against Blackpool at the beginning of December – with postponements also plaguing the schedule ahead of the Christmas break.
“The Walsall call-off was unfortunate, but these things happen,” academy boss Darren Edmondson said. “Everyone was looking forward to a game, and it’s particularly frustrating because we aren’t now scheduled to play until the Tranmere home game a week on Saturday.
“There’s nothing we can do about it, so we’ll look to arrange a couple of internal games and possibly something else, if the weather permits.”
“The good thing is that the lads have worked hard over the Christmas period,” he added. “I can tell that from the way they’ve come back, and they’ve all stuck to the individual programmes they were given.
“There was plenty of CV and gym work for them to do and most of them look very good. We’ll keep on top of that with them now and obviously, once the games come around again, that will blow the cobwebs off once and for all.”
Heading in to what is an important period for the second-year scholars, he told us: “They’re into the final four months of their season and all we can do is give them a platform to play from.
“They’ve had some good training sessions this week so it’s now down to making sure we do the right things in the games we have left. They know it’s a pressure cooker for them between now and April, and they saw what it’s like with the lads who were a year ahead of them last year.
“Along with that they have to finish their education, so there is pressure there for them, but if they become first year professionals, or if they forge a career in the game, the pressure is never off.
“You constantly bounce from one or two-year contracts to very quickly needing another deal and you have to prove yourself every single day. Being in that situation with a family and a mortgage increases the pressure even more. It’s something they have to get used to because if they’re going to be successful they have to handle it.
“It’s a big four months for them but they don’t need us to tell them that.”
And on how the first years have adapted to their first five months with the club, he said: “It’s been tough mentally, particularly for the first years, because they have to get to grips with how much other teams can punish you if you don’t look after the ball.
“They’ve come up against bigger clubs, like Walsall, Preston and Bolton, who have crops of good players, but it’s a been an important learning curve for them.
“Hopefully we’ll get past the weather sooner rather than later and we’ll start 2018 well.”