Academy boss Darren Edmondson spoke this week about preparations for the 2018/19 campaign now that the current season has drawn to a close, with three of this year’s second year scholars [Sam Adewusi, Max Brown and Kieron Olsen] having made it through to the professional ranks.
“We’ve already started looking towards next season,” he said. “Our first years obviously step up to become the seniors, and the new intake is a largely Cumbrian crop, so that’s quite exciting for us.
“That was something we aimed for because we wanted to see if we could get some local lads who were good enough. Taking them on can’t ever be because they live in the right postcode, you can’t do it for that reason, it has to be because you feel these boys have a chance.
“The group as a whole will have a real Cumbrian feel to it next season and I think that’s good for the club. I already feel there are a couple of lads in there, going by what I’ve seen even before they join us full time, who might be names of the future.”
Looking back at a season badly affected by the weather – the young Blues played just four fixtures between 28 November and 10 March, with some postponements coming as they were on their way to games – he admitted that it had been tough to handle for players and coaches alike.
“The number of postponements is something I’ve never experienced before,” he told us. “It was difficult from a coaching point of view because you’re having to tailor long, long periods of training when you know there probably isn’t going to be any actual game time in amongst it all.
“It wasn’t an ideal situation, but we tried to use it as a positive. We based the work we did around making sure it would get the lads closer to the first team squad, should that opportunity arise.
“Sam Adewusi is an example of a lad who thrived in that environment. He is now a really good physical specimen because he used that two or three months where we had no football to build himself up.”
“It’s fair to say that overall it was a very stop-start season, which made it tough at times, but the lads grew in confidence once the games started up again,” he commented. “We were scoring goals and winning games well through the latter stages and the mid-table finish is a much fairer reflection of the work that’s been done, and of that group of players.
“Nobody enjoyed it when we were sat near the bottom during the period just before and after Christmas, and it meant that people were able to make comments that were disrespectful about the players.
“I was chuffed to bits to see them put a long run of consistent performances together and they matured well as a group. The results have taken them to where they should be, in my opinion, and had we not dropped a couple of results in October and November where we could have taken all three points we’d have been looking at a top six finish.
“That would have silenced a few people who said they weren’t perhaps fit or good enough to play at Carlisle United when I think they were.”
“As I say, it wasn’t all plain sailing and through September and October we had some heavy defeats,” he continued. “Emotionally that’s a test and a strain for the lads. They struggled, but mentally the second years improved that side of things and they started to show some leadership.
“The reward for that was the run they enjoyed from their last ten games or so. I’m really pleased for all of them that they can take that away because it’s been a solid end to the season.”
And with the three players making it through to the first team squad, he told us: “We have lads in our academy, around the ages of 13 and 14, who are being watched by bigger clubs. That’s something we just can’t get away from.
“When that’s happening their parents need to see that there’s a route to the first team squad, or they could take the option to travel to wherever around the north of England if they feel that will give their son a better chance.
“We’re a club that has to be bringing our better players through to our first team environment. We need to make sure we have the capability of doing that and that we aren’t continually losing players because of a perception that they won’t go on to make it here.
“The philosophy and culture of the club has always been to do that, and a lot of the success we’ve seen over the years has been built around academy players. That’s come from them doing well consistently once they’ve made it through, or because they’ve been sold on and made money for the football club.”
“Now that the season is at an end we need to sit as a group and review the academy as a whole,” he concluded. “We’re always striving to make it better in terms of recruitment, staffing and how we perform in fixtures across all of the age groups.
“We’ll be meeting with Nigel Clibbens to see what the board feels about taking it forward, and hopefully everybody will see the benefits of the work we do in years to come as we continue to guide players through to professional contracts.”
Click HERE to watch an interview with Darren Edmondson on iFollow United now.