U18s boss pleased with young players' developmentDavid Dodds has labelled the 2014/15 season as a very successful one for the U18s and the club’s academy as a whole.
The U18s finished as runners up in end-of-season Play-off Group 2, having ended their regulation campaign in fifth in the U18s Premier League South Group.
A number of young players, including Andrija Novakovich and Harry Cardwell, made the transition from U18 to U21 level during the campaign, with the former also representing the first team on two occasions.
In total, 11 academy graduates made their senior bows this term and Dodds says, that under the leadership of Academy Manager Eamonn Dolan, everyone is committed to producing more of the same next year.
“Eamonn has got a fantastic team of people who are very united and driven to get young players into the first team,” said the Assistant Academy Manager. “He has a team around him that are extremely good at what they do.
“Ultimately, our goal is to see how many lads we can develop to be able to play effective football at U21 level and potentially for the first team.
“This year we have had young Andrija, a second year scholar, get into the first team in two games. That is the ultimate aim, how many we can progress to the first team is always in mind.
“Martin Kuhl and Lee Herron have done fantastically at U21 level and we have Gilkesy and myself in the U18s too, but there are lots and lots of backroom staff that do a great job.
“We’d regard it as a really, really successful season at any level for 11 players to break through and, not only that, but when they have gone in they have done really well.
“It’s really important to put the boys into the first team but equally as important to get results. It was nice to see the gaffer take Tariqe up to Derby after watching his previous game. He took his chance and did very well. It’s about get young players in but also about recording points.”
Dodds was very pleased with the way that the U18s grew into their season, following an a period of learning at the start of the campaign.
He said: “There was a very strong group that progressed through last year and not many of the first-year scholars, or U16s, were given much of an opportunity and blooded into the team.
“We started this season with players without much experience at this level and it probably took them two or three months to actually find their feet and start playing.
“It’s a demanding level; it’s very technical, physical and tactically more astute. You’ve got to learn to cope with that and then impose yourself on top of it.
“We’ve had Tom McIntyre, who is away with the Scotland U17s at the moment and Josh Barrett who is representing Ireland. Tyler Frost is an U16 that has played in the U18s this year and also a real good sprinkling of first years, which obviously sets us up nicely for next season.”