Simon comments on important new development fixtures
Manager Simon Grayson has today given his views on the new English Under-21 League.
The new under-21 league is a late addition, setup as part of the new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) that aims to improve the development and prospects young footballers progressing through English clubs. It will mirror the fixture list of the under-18 side.
Town’s U21 campaign starts off with a home fixture against Crewe Alexandra, scheduled for Wednesday 22 August, but both Grayson and Development Coach Steve Eyre believe it is vital that the Club and the players treat the games as seriously as they would a first team game to gain the full benefit.
“The new under-21 League is a crucial next step in the long-term progress of Huddersfield Town and its player development pathway,” Grayson explained today.
“You only have to look at the teams we will be playing regularly this year – the likes of Wigan Athletic, Birmingham City and Leicester City – and you know the standard of opposition and the test will be very high.
“We are totally committed to taking the opportunity the programme offers because we believe it can have a big, positive affect on our developing players.
“The U21 matches will to a large extent replace formal reserve team football, informal behind closed doors development games and will in time lead to far less loans of young players.
“We are totally committed to player development. The Club has invested a lot and we have some first class coaches. We need to make the games as ‘real’ as possible. I have requested we play the under-21 home games at the Stadium, which will not only benefit our players but also our fans – who can come and watch the fixtures. Crucially it shows our commitment as Club and Coaches to treat the games with total respect – just as we would if playing a first team game. We are awaiting the decision from the Stadium with our fingers crossed.”
Senior Professional Development Coach Steve Eyre continued:
“We need our young players to feel comfortable playing in front of crowds in competitive matches against tough opposition at their home stadium, because if they do well enough the Manager has shown he will put them into the first team. It will benefit our youngsters if they feel comfortable on the big stage.
“Much of the learning and development that is associated with playing games which traditionally came through loans will now be attained through continued development with the home club. We can work with the players every day, see them at close quarters and compete in a league as well – and if the players make their mark they are on hand and available to step into the first team. In many cases loans offer game time and little else in terms of development with players having a routine of play, rest and prepare. Loans have a role but will no longer be at the heart of the final stage of development.
“Before the under-21 league came to fruition, the Club made the big decision to pull the reserve team out of the Central League because it didn’t fit the development plan at the time. I understand and support that, but now we have an ideal scenario whereby the standard will be excellent, but we have to treat it properly.
Huddersfield Town Chief Executive Nigel Clibbens explained
“When we played in the Central League we played at the stadium but then moved our home Reserve games to the Welfare Ground at Emley to save the pitch as the Desso surface had passed its expiry date and use needed to be minimised. A decision was then taken for footballing reasons to withdraw from the Reserve League and play ‘behind closed doors’ development games with only the occasional public fixture at home.
“The EPPP has changed the whole way player development will now take place. The proposed requirements around staging U21 games are now more stringent than for Championship games – clearly driven by the Premiership – and that shows how seriously everyone must approach the new regime.
“We support Simon and Steve’s view and have asked KSDL to allow us to play under-21 games at the Stadium, which will not only benefit our players but also our fans too – who can come and watch. Without the new pitch this would be unviable but with the advances in pitches and the new investment last year, we hope we can again return to the arrangements which were in place when the ground and pitch were first used. KSDL are looking at the issues.”