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Club News

YOUTH: It's been a good spell

An update from under-18 boss Mark Birch

3 March 2023

Club News

YOUTH: It's been a good spell

An update from under-18 boss Mark Birch

3 March 2023

Nine points from a possible twelve has catapulted United’s under-18 side right back into the hunt for the Youth Alliance North West Division’s silverware, particularly after an away victory at Fleetwood last week took them to the top of the pile.

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MATCH DAY INFO: Catering Grimsby

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We spoke to youth boss Mark Birch about his high-flying young guns this week.

“The last few weeks have been really good,” he said. “It’s been a little bit stop-start since we came back after Christmas, with the way the fixtures have gone, and we’ve had players going out on loan and things like that as well.

“That’s meant that we’ve had to bring a few of the under-16s into it, but that does them no harm in the long run. The first years have stepped up and really settled in and those who are left from our second year group have led by example.

“It’s all going really well at the moment, and we’re playing some good football along the way as well. The really positive thing to come out of the last couple of months is that everybody is showing an understanding of how we want to play, and they’re taking that into the games.

“They’ve bought into it, and from that they’ve made sure that they’ve earned the right to play, and in turn that has brought us the results.”

With results having gone the way they have it took the young Blues to the top of the pile after a very impressive away win against close rivals Fleetwood Town in their last outing.

“I know it gets boring but you have to keep giving them the same message time after time,” he explained. “It’s about consistent and continual hard work and going out to be positive and on the front foot.

Match Previews

MATCH DAY INFO: SLO Grimsby

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“If you show energy from the kick-off you tend to start to wear your opponents down and you gain the benefits from that as the game goes on. That’s what they’ve been doing.

“Going to Fleetwood, with them up the top with us, that’s exactly the type of game you want to be playing in. These lads have come all the way through the system from the age of nine to be involved in this type of thing.

“Top against second in an important league game at this stage of the season is important, and we told the lads before we kicked off that if they couldn’t get themselves motivated for something like that then unfortunately it means that football isn’t for you.

“If you wake up on a Saturday morning and you’re bursting at the seams to get out there, whether it’s at youth team level or even for your school, then this game is for you. We went out and the lads were fantastic, they really were.

“They’re fully aware of the chance they’ve given themselves with the way they’ve done thing, and I’d say they probably look at the league table more than I do. That’s what you want, you want them to be competitive and to understand the importance of winning games, and what can come if you work hard.

“It’s all about individual development but, at the same time, we’re also a team that wants to achieve things together. We train as a unit, we work on things, we put a lot of energy into what we do and it’s always good to see results come off the back of that.”

Next up for the Blues is the trip to Stockport at the weekend.

Match Previews

MATCH DAY INFO: Tickets Grimsby

1 March 2023

“They beat us earlier in the season and, I have to say, that game was probably our biggest disappointment of the season so far,” he commented. “We just didn’t turn up.

“Everything that we pride ourselves on – hard work, being aggressive in the right way, energy, running, passing and looking forward – none of that was there and we got punished for it.

“To be fair, we were able to highlight it and learn from it and I think it became a little bit of a turning point for us.”

As ever heading into March thoughts also turn to recruitment for next year’s first-year scholarship vacancies, as well the contract situation for the second-year group.

“It’s always a bit of a mixed bag when you get to this stage,” he told us. “We have some of the older lads out on loan, with some, them included, who are trying to get the next stage of their career sorted out.

“We have first years who are starting to think about becoming the leaders of the group and they will develop their understanding of the game from there.

“We’re almost there in terms of the recruitment of the under-16s, and they’ve been able to get a look at how we do things.

“Another positive is that we’ve had a few under-15s who have been called in to make their debuts, so we’re in a good place at the moment.”


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