Academy manager Andy Awford's final notes of 2015
FA YOUTH CUP
Earlier this month the Under-18s travelled up to Notts County for the FA Youth Cup third round tie at Meadow Lane and I was absolutely made-up for Paul Driver, all the staff and the boys following their thoroughly deserved 3-1 win.
What a performance it was, it was good as we’ve played all season – and they have played some excellent football most weeks – but this really was a superb performance.
We lost Frankie Musonda to a red card on the half-hour but I think if anybody walked into the stadium after that point they would have never of known it was 11 versus 10. It was a fantastic performance all-round and it could have been more. The boys were worthy winners and we now look forward to the next round and a tie away to Oldham or Bournemouth in the New Year. It’s unfortunate we’re not at home as we would have liked a game at Kenilworth Road.
UNDER-18s UNBEATEN RECORD ENDS
Last Saturday (19th December) the Youth Team were beaten 3-1 at Dagenham & Redbridge which ended their proud, long, unbeaten run which had stretched 30 matches including eight games at the end of last season.
It was going to happen sooner or later but the run has been unbelievable and credit goes to everyone involved. They were going to be beaten at some point but the boys had an off day – one bad off day in 30 isn’t bad, is it?
However, there’s no pressure on the boys now. The run is over and it’s back to business again to start another run starting next year. It would have been nice to go the whole season unbeaten but massive congratulations to the boys for maintaining such an incredible record for so long.
Their last match of the year against Stevenage was postponed on Tuesday and they are not back in action until the New Year so they will have a breather now before aiming to wrap up the league title in early 2016. The focus after that will then be the FA Youth Cup.
DUO IN THE FIRST TEAM SQUAD
It was great to see two of the Under-18s in the squad in recent first team games. Frankie Musonda was on the bench for the Northampton game and he was then joined in the 18-man squad by James Justin at Exeter.
It’s nice to see young lads making an imprint into the first team squad and training regularly with the senior squad. Every club likes to see homegrown players coming through the ranks and challenging for a spot in the first team.
It’s particularly pleasing to see such hard work and investment in keeping the academy going in the club’s non-league days is bearing fruit. Congratulations to everyone who has helped over the years – now we have to push on.
ACADEMY CHRISTMAS PARTY
Finally, a mention on the Academy staff Christmas party on Monday. A very healthy 95 per cent turn-out saw us all enjoy a fruit juice or two (although some opted for something for potent and were a bit worse for wear the next day – you know who you are!).
It was all good fun, though, and for me it was good to see the camaraderie between the staff. It was good to see everyone enjoying themselves. An unbelievable amount of hard work and effort goes in each week and I’d like to wish them all a happy Christmas.
I’d also like to send my festive wishes to all the players in the Academy plus all of their parents, who work tirelessly ferrying the boys to training and to matches.
Have a wonderful break everyone and here’s to a successful 2016 in the Academy set-up.