Youth boss Eric Kinder echoed the sentiments of just about everybody you talk to these days when he spoke about how much he’s looking forward to getting back to the business of football once the restrictions have been lifted.
INTERVIEW: We’re not going start selling until I’m certain that we can provide our part of the bargain7 July 2020
But we started our conversation with him this week with a look back at the day when 2020 was turned on its head.
“Going right back to the start of lockdown, I think we all knew it was coming,” he said. “From the end of February everything seemed to move so fast across the world.
“I must admit, I thought we’d be off for a couple of weeks, it would all disappear and we’d carry on. As it turned out, it’s been a complete disaster for the world and the sooner we’re out of it and back to playing again, the better.
“We were having a good season as well, so it was a shame to see it come to an end. Myself and Mark [Birch] have said all the way through that the teams that were above us, which were Preston, Salford and Fleetwood, we just couldn’t get close to them.
“Preston are a big Championship club, and Fleetwood and Salford threw a lot of money at their recruitment. It’s sad to see that Salford have folded their youth team, I don’t really understand why they’ve done that, especially with the people who own that club and how they came through a youth system.
“You would have thought it would have been close to their hearts but I’m sure they’ve got their reasons. It’s sad to see because they were a decent side last year. After those three sides we were as strong as anybody.”
On how he dealt with the under-18 group when it became apparent that a return to work wasn’t coming any time soon, he commented: “To start off with the lads were worried about whether they’d get a summer holiday, and they’ve ended up with over three months off now haven’t they!
“Kids at that age feel like they’re indestructible, they carried on as usual and I think it was only three weeks into lockdown where they realised it was going to be a long time without playing football.
"We’ve had Zoom calls with them so we could keep in touch, and they were all given programmes to do, as well as some longer runs. Hopefully when they come back for pre-season they’ll be ready to go and we can try and have another successful season.
“One thing we made sure was that the under-16s who will be joining us as first years have been included in the under-18 app we have, so they’ve been involved with us all the way through.
“The first team were doing their Friday run, which turned into a bit of competition, so we included the under-18s and the under-16s who will be joining us next year in that. Some of their times were near the top of the ladder, which was very impressive for a group of young lads. I’m sure they’ll all be looking forward to coming in and getting started.”
A real shining light from last season was the number of young players who made it through to gaining a pro deal, which gave a lift to everybody within the club’s academy system.
“Getting six through is a huge amount for a club this size,” he said. “I read the interview you did with Charlie Birch where he said that this club supports their youth players, and he’s right.
“The club supported the youth side when I was here the first time and it’s the same now. All six of them have got a long way to go, and I think they all know that. They know they haven’t made it yet, they’ve just moved from the youth team ladder to the pro ladder, which is even harder. They’ll all always be welcome in our office if they need any advice and I’m looking forward to seeing how they get on.
“As youth players coming into the club these young lads have got to look at the players we’ve had here recently and see what’s there for them, if they work hard and do it properly.
“They’re all bright enough to understand that they’ll get a chance if they’re good enough, because age doesn’t matter here. We had a lot of second years involved in a lot of match day squads last season.
“Jarrad [Branthwaite] was 16 when he made his debut, he’s still only 17 now, and he’s on a Premier League bench, which is just incredible. The strides he’s taken in the last two years are amazing, and I’m using Jarrad as an example to our lads now.
“The staff love him and his own team mates love him because he just gets on with his jobs and plays his football how he wants to play it. He does everything right, and it just shows what’s possible when you do that.”
Click HERE to watch an interview with Eric Kinder on iFollow United now.
Click HERE to see a clip from this interview on our YouTube channel. Follow the same link for more FREE content right from the heart of the club.