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This year has been a very interesting one for the Under-18s side.
We are currently in a situation whereby certain players who are under 18 have moved on from the side.
James Wallace, Jose Baxter and Kieran Agard are just a selection of players who could be in our side, not to mention Jack Rodwell.
We’re in a fantastic situation because our players are progressing so quickly - but at the same time if you lose your best players it has an effect on results and performances.
The younger boys who have been brought in wouldn’t have expected to get as much action as they have.
We have Jake Bidwell – he’s done smashing - better than we would have hoped. He’s creating a real selection problem for us in that he’s more than holding his own and is doing really well. In his last performance against Stoke he scored a fantastic header for us, but unfortunately he’s injured now.
Another player who has shone of late is Ross Barkley. He is now a regular in my team and has also featured for England Schoolboys. He was called in because we’re a little light on numbers – he played the last two games and boy has he taken his opportunity. It’s difficult to keep him out of the side too!
What could have been a negative situation for the Under-18s has turned into a great opportunity for the younger players in the academy and it’s now down to them to show us what they’ve got. They have the perfect chance to try to step up the ladder towards the first team, like Jack and Co.
That’s the way we’ve always done it here and long may it continue. We focus on the development of the individual player.
Other academies try to put their best team out every weekend but we try to focus on the development of the individual player. Obviously we try to win every game, but never at the expense of developing our boys into top-class players.
When we’ve played teams of the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City, who put out their strongest sides in a bid to win games, we’ve found it a big ask and have been defeated.
But we have done relatively well against all the other sides that we’ve come up against.
We are having a slight blip at the moment having drawn our past four games 1-1 - but you could also say that we are unbeaten in four. The disappointing factor is that in every one of these games we were in the lead, but let it slip late on. The challenge now is to work on that and stop it happening again in the future.