Professional Development Phase Coach Andy Dawson is looking forward to the youth team's season starting this weekend against Chesterfield following a positive pre-season.
The U18's returned to pre-season training at the same time as the professionals and have had more than ten pre-season friendlies to prepare for their campaign.
The squad also spent almost two weeks in Holland at the start of the month as their team bonding exercise, playing four further games while away. Dawson spoke to the club ahead of their home game against the Spireites, which will be held at Brumby Hall on Saturday (kick-off 11am).
ON PRE-SEASON IN GENERAL...
AD: It's gone really well. We've had plenty of games, a lot of good training sessions and the pleasing thing for us is that we have progressed as pre-season has gone on. From the day the lads came in on the first day of pre-season, we talked about the philosophy of the club and the way we are going to play. Personally coming down from the First Team, I know exactly what the philosophy is and we've tried to embed that over the last seven or eight weeks.
It's a learning tool for me, it's not just a new team, but it's a new environment and experience for them to start work. There's a routine through your school life and now everything has changed for them. It can be difficult for them and some of them are leaving home for the first time.
ON THE TRIP TO HOLLAND...
AD: We had four games out in Holland and the team have bedded in together as a team and a unit and the trip has been a massive part of that. I'd like to think if you ask any of the lads about their progression and learning, that they're learning day-in, day-out - which is what we're here for.
The trip was an educational one, not just all about football. The lads are 15, 16 and 17-years old, some of whom have never been away from home. Although they've been in academies for long periods of time, it's different having to get up two or three times a day to train, playing games and preparing for them correctly in a professional environment.
We went to the Cruyff Cup, with 45,000 there and it was a fantastic occasion and an experience for me as well. Hopefully, the lads can take these experiences away for the rest of their lives and further their aspirations.
ON THE START OF THE SEASON...
AD: We've been instilling principles from what the First Team do since day one and we learn something every day. The last two games in Holland, we especially saw them come to fruition and that's really pleasing for us.
Now it's important that we continue being consistent with them - expecting and demanding that they do that in games. If they certainly play the way that they can, they'll be fine throughout the season. There are always ups and downs, but it's about us being consistent with them and hoping that they continue to progress like they have done so far.
ON ENJOYING THE ROLE...
AD: I'm really enjoying it. It's completely different, but I go into everything with an open mind and that every new venture is a new experience. Working with young men, you see how they learn more, how long it takes them to learn and you can also see that progression, which is what our job is.
The biggest excitment we can see is the lads flourishing, taking on board what we are saying and when they do play games, they can take on board the principles we are instilling.
The biggest achievement for myself, Tony (Daws) and Nev (Burbeary) is when the gaffer (Graham Alexander), Chris (Lucketti), Nick (Daws) and Muzzy (Paul Musselwhite) come to watch us and it's like a mini-First Team - when they see the things that the First Team do day-in, day-out.
Hopefully then, there's a pathway for them all, when they do get the opportunity to train with the First Team - or if they hopefully get a professional contract - it's everything that they've been doing over the last number of years.