Four months since his appointment as the Development Squad manager, Nicky Adams reflects on the opening months of the season, speaks about the growth of the squad, and looks ahead to the future.
The Development Squad was created in the summer, sitting below the main youth team, but allowing those who show promise to make advancements in their footballing career.
It was a second chance for those released from academies to continue their footballing journey, or an opportunity for grassroots players to showcase their ability via open trials.
The team is just under halfway through their season, competing in the National League Youth Alliance, being one of twelve teams.
It was Nicky’s first proper taste of coaching, which he balances with his part-time playing career with Radcliffe.
The 37-year-old is delighted with the progress the young lads have made so far, especially considering some have been given opportunities with the youth and first team.
“Like I said when I first came in, it’s a fantastic opportunity for me, it’s my first role as a coach and the lads have been great with me.
“It’s important to mention that the development squad is new, so things take time, but they’re getting there.
“All of them have just left school, so when you compare it to other teams who are two or three years into the process, we're a little bit behind.
“Now they’re really getting to grips with it and have made some good progress.
“The improvement we’ve seen since they’ve come in is fantastic.”
“The one thing I said to the lads when I came in was that I want to integrate the lads into the youth team.
“All the lads are at different stages of their development, but they’ve all done fantastic so far, with the progress they’ve made.
“Several of them have already trained with the youth team, and some with the first team which was a great experience for them.
“The most pleasing thing for me, is when they’ve gone to the first-team, the gaffer has asked for them to go back.
“Some of them have come up to me afterwards and said thank you, but they shouldn’t be thanking me, they should be thanking themselves, because they did it.
“They’ve been given an opportunity, took it, and ran with it.”
With the programme starting in the summer, and competing against established teams who’ve had their side for a few years, it wasn’t going to be an easy task putting together a squad which could be competitive.
That said, despite early results, Nicky is optimistic about their chances going forward, and has already seen key signs of development.
“The most difficult thing for us starting this programme was that we were behind everyone else.
“All the other teams have had theirs running for a few years.
“We got the lads in from open trials, and within a couple of weeks they were playing games together, as a new team.
“They didn’t have a full pre-season where we could get them up to speed, they were thrown in at the deep end.
“Our lads were 16-years-old coming in, they’re playing against 18 & 19-year-olds each week.
“So there’s going to be that gap physically, but I can see that progression in the lads, and they’re taking what we say on board.
“The most pleasing thing for me is we’re getting messages from other clubs saying how well we’ve played, and that our lads have carried themselves well.
“Some of these teams have years of experience as a development team, so if we’re getting messages from clubs like that then we’re doing something right.
“They’re on the right path and I’m excited to see where they’ll be in twelve months.”
As part of the programme, the squad trains on the Little Wembley training pitch, which is just a stone’s throw from Boundary Park.
They also use other facilities such as the changing rooms, canteen, and gym on site, giving them a real taste of a professional football club.
“It’s brilliant for the lads to be training in a professional environment.
“They see the first team most days, and we’ve got a lot of Oldham fans in the squad, so it’s an even better experience for them to be around them.
“They’ll speak to them, and it creates that real buzz around the place, everyone is just happy.
“They look up to the first team players, they’re their role models, which is great for them as they’re looking to follow in their footsteps.
“Anyone coming here as part of the development squad knows they’ve got that opportunity to go with the first team on occasions, like some of them already have.
“In that way it’s unique compared to other clubs, they can see the day-to-day process of a professional football club, from the first team, to office staff, groundsman, maintenance, everything.
“I’m very old school in a way, I get them to do jobs like cleaning boots and sweeping the changing rooms.
“But they’re such a good bunch, that within a few weeks I didn’t even need to ask them to do it, they just did it.”
With the recruitment process for the 2024/25 season underway, Nicky stresses the fantastic opportunity young players have if they link up with the Development Squad.
Whilst it might be a bit daunting for those not used to being around a club the size of Oldham, the opportunity isn’t to be missed, with those leaving school in 2024 encouraged to apply.
“You only need to look at the football club itself to understand the opportunity you’ll get if you come here.
“To play for this football club is massive.
“We’ve already had some recruitment nights, Muzza’s already had some good players in the building who’ve spoken about coming in next year.
“With the connections he has with local academies, it’ll allow us to bring in some good youngsters who’ve been let go by academies.
“They’ll integrate next year with the lads we have at the moment, which creates an exciting opportunity.
“We’ve got the new facility in Little Wembley coming, which means it’s a huge opportunity for someone to come and play for Oldham Athletic.”
“A lot of lads we’ve got have come through grassroots football, and all of a sudden they’ve got the opportunity to play for Oldham Athletic.
“It can be a bit daunting for them, and it’s a big jump from what they’re used to.
“We’re not too bothered about results, as long as the games are competitive at this stage.
“At the start we were on the wrong end of results that didn’t really reflect how the game went.
“What we’ve seen over the past four or five games has been much better, games are a lot closer, and results have started to come.
“Even ones we’ve lost, it’s been the odd goal here or there that’s lost it, it’s not a complete thrashing.
“We’re developing the identity at the moment, which is why I’m not too fussed about results, as long as progress is being made.