Academy Update with Tom Parkinson
Local Derby win and successful Open Evening sees Academy go from strength to strength
Whilst a 5-3 win over local rivals Maidstone United, which stretched the National League Under-19’s Alliance squad’s lead at the top of the table to six points, is not to be sniffed at, the most important event of the week was probably the opening of the doors to the next generation of students at the Academy’s Open Evening at Longmead on Wednesday evening.
A very good turn-out of around 20 prospective scholars with their parents assembled to hear talks given to them from Jamie Coyle, who covered the academic side with myself outlining the football side. Hopefully, between Jamie and myself we made it clear to the lads that the purpose of their time at the Academy is to further their education as well as the football side. We know that we have a successful model at Hugh Christie because our results have shown it with last year with a 100% pass rate at BTEC Level 3 sport. At the Open Evening we had a single young lady attend and we have been requested by Hugh Christie to expand our operation into a female team. This, we are very keen to do, but unfortunately it does depend on numbers, probably needing at least 10 to make up a class. Our candidates will receive correspondence in the very near future from both ourselves and the school and there will be football trials arranged for February. For a first evening, the turn-out suggests that we will have a full intake of students next year.
On the pitch, we all know what a win at any level against our A26 friends means to our supporters, so it was satisfying to deliver on Wednesday afternoon. Maidstone were a good physical test for us. We played some really good football at times and scored some very good goals. At 5-2 we dropped off and stopped doing the things we were doing and became very sloppy. As a group we need to stop conceding sloppy, avoidable goals.
But, on a positive, the group so far this season have been fantastic. You can see from the start of the season to now a real improvement in the squad individually and as a team. We have still got a lot to work on to improve as a team but the pleasing thing for me isn’t the results, it’s the development of each individual player. For us as an Academy it’s nice to win each game but it’s about improving each individual and trying to progress players into senior football.
Two goals from Saul Musengeyi coupled with his best performance in an Academy shirt earned him the Man of the Match award.
Unfortunately, our Development squads didn’t fare so well this week. Our first Development squad were rather unfortunate to come up against a Phoenix Sports side that had been strengthened by their senior squad’s postponement and were duly beaten 7-2 and Rhys Bartlett’s squad also came up short with a 3-1 defeat by Knights Academy.
Overall both squads have had massive improvements from September and each week the performances are getting stronger, whilst again individually improving. Dom Welsh and Rhys take a lot of credit in their development and improvement so far, as they are predominantly the ones who challenge them each week in training and push them to improve. Results are not the be all and end all, it’s all about improving as a team, and each week, I’m pleased to say they are.
Overall it has been a fantastic start to the 2019/20 year both academically and on the football side with the academy set up looking better and stronger than 2018/19. Our aim is to keep improving as an academy, to provide a top education for the players so that they can come out with good grades and qualifications whilst improving them as footballers for either our first team or senior football elsewhere.
A finally, birthday wishes this week goes to Leo Deere who turned 18 on Wednesday and celebrated with three points over his ex-club!