Log in or Register

Manager of U18s (IYL) , Dom Welsh, reviews first half of the season

Don Welsh Q & A Dec 2022

“Absolutely delighted with how things have gone so far”

Following Wednesday (28th December) evening’s Under-18’s friendly against Hollands & Blair  that brought a 1-0 win with an 88th minute goal from Tom Green, we took time out to have a chat with Dom Welsh about the first half of the season, what we might expect from the rest of the season and a look at the youth set-up at the club. 

Firstly, a quick look at tonight’s friendly against Hollands & Blair that brought a late winner. It was a bit scrappy, but the weather conditions and also the roll on/roll off nature of the substitutions probably didn’t help. 


DW: The game served the purpose it needed too, valuable minutes over the Christmas break, allowing players to stay fit. We had six players missing, so we looked to use some local Under-16 lads, to give them some experience heading into next season. I thought we played some good football at times, but struggled to find consistency throughout the game.  

Looking back at the first half of the season. This time last year we were scrapping to stay out of the bottom three; this season we are looking to break into the top three, you must be pleased. 

DW: Absolutely delighted with the first half of the season. We worked hard over pre-season both on the recruitment front, to get in the right players for how we wanted to play, and also worked hard in pre-season to get the squad organised in how we wanted to play. We set ourselves a target, which we are currently on course to do! Heading into the second half of the season, if we can find some consistency across games, we would love to see ourselves keep the title charge alive! 

At the top of the table are two outstanding teams, who recently fought out a classic League Cup tie, Sutton Common and Cray Valley, how far away do you feel your side is from closing the gap on them. 

DW. Two great sides! Sutton blew everyone away in the league last season and Cray always produce excellent Under-18 sides! We have somewhat closed the gap massively this season and we have shown in certain games, and sections in other games, that we are capable of mixing with the top two sides. Consistency, and a ruthless edge in front of goal, are the two stand out attributes I feel are currently letting us down. We’ve dropped points in games in which we feel if we had played at an extra 10% we could have been taking all three points! 

You’ve had the occasional help, player-wise, from the Academy, but the nature of your games being played on Monday evening and Tom’s teams playing Wednesday lunchtime obviously precludes regular appearances. Is there any scope for closer liaison between the squads?


DW. Currently no, we now have two regulars from the academy, and we also have used Leo Vowles at the start of the season. We have always felt that keeping ‘separate ’ player wise would have the best benefit for the club and for local players. It means we provide both an educational scholarship programme, but we also offer football to those who perhaps stay at college or decide not to pursue full-time football. Having the option to use the academy lads when needed is excellent to cover absences! But given the academy train three times during the week plus fixtures. Adding another one or two sessions andgames to their schedule would possibly be an excessive workload!   

Unfortunately, there is the gap in the club’s Kent Youth League structure from Under-14 jumping to Under-18, this must make bringing Under-16’s through difficult. Over time, this will hopefully correct itself, but in the meantime, how are you attracting Under-16’s?

DW: This is something we are actively working on at the moment. Fortunately we have some good links with other local clubs, who usually do not continue after Under-16’s. So we are able to identify some players already who will be looking for a new club. Throughout last season and this season we have invited local talented Under-16’s to join in with our training each week, which has had a fantastic impact on our Intake of first years. This season we have three Under-16’s who are a part of our main squad with Fin McLeod, Adam Larkin and Hamza Ali. All three of those lads have been excellent for us and, given they could have another two years with us, they have bright futures. Alongside our Under-16 players, we have another five very talented first years, this allows us to have a strong base for next season already. 

Following the installation of the 3G to Longmead the club’s profile has clearly risen, has this helped you attract players?

DW: Definitely, I also feel this will increase year on year, with other clubs coming to play at Longmead, they can see the facilities are excellent and players become interested. It has also allowed us to play an attractive style of football, which makes us an interesting opportunity to talented players who see the way we do things, and want to become a part!  

Finally, and you are going to hate this question, but would you like to pick out not necessarily your star turns, but lads that have made big improvements and those that have a positive influence in the dressing room?

DW: Really difficult to pick, as there has been such a huge difference from last year, and for me it doesn’t just come down to the new players coming in, it comes from the dedication of players who stuck by it from last season raising their game to improve the team. Recent signings of Joe Newman and Ethan Knight have given the team the option to play a different formation and change the dynamics which is great. Across the side in all departments we have looked strong. All three strikers have hit the back of the net regularly; we are blessed with some excellent midfield options, Felix Waring and Sam Firman, two of our new first years have had a great impact with their creativity and at the back we have looked largely really solid throughout. Winning creates a better environment in and around the squad but we are a closer knit bunch than we were last year which has helped us on the pitch too!

DW: Would just like to say a massive thank you to everyone at the club, and involved with the team for their support over the last year!

Published Thursday 29th December 2022