Professional Development Coach Tony updates us on the Under-18s
It’s been a good start to the season for Huddersfield Town’s Under-18 side, managed by Lead Professional Development Coach Tony Carss.
Town’s youngsters are third in the early Professional Development League 2 North table, level on points with first placed Birmingham City having won seven of their opening 12 games of the campaign.
However, in an environment where player development is the most important factor, former Town midfielder Tony was keen to tell htafc.com how the players have learned new skills as a team in the first few months of 2014/15.
“The results have been good, but the performances have been too. We’ve asked for different types and styles in different games, both to suit the opposition and just to see the players adapt to a different plan,” Tony explained.
“We ask the players to watch the opposition every Thursday and come up with their strengths and weaknesses in order to get them thinking about the game.
“Equally, we want to challenge our players. We played a friendly against the Nike Academy recently and we asked them not to press past the halfway line. We’ve never done that before and you could see the players were itching to get out, but we adapted and counter-attacked really well, scoring two in the first-half.
“If they go on to have careers, these different requests will be thrown at them. We’re trying to give them the ability to cope with that early on.”
Tony believes the work he - alongside Leigh Bromby and the rest of the Under-18 technical staff – has put in with the players at PPG Canalside is already paying dividends.
“We’ve come on unbelievably as a group. We only have a small squad and we had some injuries at the start of the season, but now most of those players are back fit and there has been genuine competition for places over the last fortnight.
“In any case, players will get opportunities as we look at different systems. The motivation and concentration in training is really high.
“They’re improving quickly. We’ve done a lot of individual work with them in the coaching programme, which has certainly helped the players to kick-on.”
The improvement of the players has been capped by five scholars – Regan Booty, Ronan Coughlan, Jacob Hanson, Adam Porritt and Rekeil Pyke – playing for Frankie Bunn’s Under-21 side this term.
Tony continue: “We’ve had five scholars, including some first years, make the step up and do really well. It’s great that our young players can see that pathway.
“Jacob Hanson in particular has done really well. We moved him to centre half in the Under-18s just eight games ago and he’s excelled, growing in confidence. Equally, his performances at right back in the Under-21s have been really good.
“Equally, Rekeil Pyke got his first two Under-21 goals at Cardiff recently. That’s great for his confidence and its motivation for the other players – they know if they’re doing well, they will get an opportunity.
“I think the key is that our players step up to the Under-21s and really make an impact and contribution. They’re not just going there to get a game – they have to be an important player. So far that’s been the case.”
There is one competition at Under-18 level where results take on extra precedence – the FA Youth Cup. Having reached the Sixth Round for the first time in 40 years last season, Carss’ side start this season’s competition with a Third Round home tie against Crystal Palace at the John Smith’s Stadium on Wednesday 10 December.
“We had a really good run in the competition last year and a lot of these players were involved; that experience will stand them in good stead. Some of them have also played at stadia with the Under-21s this season as well, so they will be looking forward to expressing themselves on the occasion.
“We’ve got a tough draw in Crystal Palace, who we drew 4-4 with on the first day of the season. They have a lot of ability and pace in their team and they’ve had some good results recently. It will be a massive test for us.
“Working on mental skills is a really big part of the week for us, so they should be able to handle the occasion. We eventually want these lads playing for our First Team in front of 15,000, so playing in front of the Manager and a crowd at our Stadium will be a good test. We want to show everyone what we’re about.”
Town’s Under-18s are back in action on Saturday with a game against Crewe Alexandra; 11.30am start at the Alexandra Park training ground