Head of Coaching Conor Marlin was pleased with the start of the Youth Teams’ pre-season after their 1-0 win over Bradford City U18s on Saturday.
Marlin took plenty of positives from the game against Bradford and believes the work on the training ground is showing signs of paying off.
“We put out two teams, so it was important to get everybody some minutes under their belt, from that we had four under sixteens playing which was good so that was pleasing to get them in and around the youth team squad.” He said.
“We’ve got a bigger squad this season, then perhaps last year with some of the younger players we’re trying to push through.
“General patterns of play, things that we had worked on during the week and out of possession we could see signs of them coming into play, that was positive from a coaches point of view and then obviously although pre-season is a friendly and the result isn’t the be all and end all, but it’s nice for the lads to start off the season with a win.”
Next up for the Youth Team is a trip to Buckley Town and a stern test awaits the young Latics players.
However, Marlin believes that these types of fixtures will only help develop the youngsters in their early careers.
“We’ve now got some difficult games coming up, Buckley Town is going to be extremely difficult as is the upcoming games, from a confidence momentum point of view it was good to get that, and I think Buckley Town will be a good challenge for them.” He commented.
“The physicality and the ability to make decisions quicker is going to be the big difference I think for our lads coming up against an opposition like this.
“At the end of the day we’re trying to get them into the first team as soon as possible or get them ready for first team football, so we are exposing them to play against adults early in their development is only going to be a positive thing because they’ll learn win, lose or draw they’ll learn from it.”
For the first time ever, four U16 players were offered their scholarships early for the 2020/21 season.
Zac Emmerson, Asa Hughes, Kane Badby and Isaac Modi are the players to be offered this chance and Marlin believes it will benefit them all both on and off the pitch.
“Those four we feel we have high hopes for them, as we do for other players’ coming through, but we want to do it early to let them both have a bit of peace of mind in terms of football and education so they can really channel their time into knowing their coming here next season.
“It also challenges the rest of the group to want to get to that level and so hopefully their performance is raised because they’re thinking if I keep performing maybe I can get mine before the deadline of Christmas.
“I think it’s a nice statement from us as a management team to say we think you’ve got ability and we’ve got high hopes for you and hopefully it’ll give them confidence to come into the youth team throughout the season and hold their own.”
Marlin believes that U16 players who have been offered a scholarship will have a big involvement in the youth team.
That will be a big squad for the Youth Team to deal with, but the hopes are to get a few youngsters out on loan and experience the men’s environment early.
“If we add those four in, we’ve got 23 players’, so the plan is to get some of the lads out on work experience and loans to men’s environments’ that’s part of the reason why we’re playing some of them in pre-season as well.
“Obviously 23 is too many at the minute for one team, but with injuries and getting people out on loan as that process starts to happen then we’ll be able to push younger ones’ through and then that experience the older boys are getting out on loan will hopefully get them closer to the first team environment and a first team contract which is the ultimate goal.”
Here's another reminder of the Youth Team's pre-season schedule during July for those who wish to show their support:
Saturday 13 July (2:30pm KO) – Away
vs. Buckley Town
Tuesday 16 July (7pm KO) – Away
vs. Glossop North End
Saturday 20 July (12pm KO) – Away
vs. Chadderton FC
Tuesday 23 July (7:30pm KO) – Away
vs. Stafford Rangers
Saturday 27 July (1pm KO) – Away
vs. Winsford United
Tuesday 30 July (12:30pm KO) – Away
vs. FC Halifax Town U18's