Aldershot Town’s youth department continue their 2017-18 recruitment with a series of trials next week, but for some players the old season still has plenty of life in it yet!
Last weekend The Shots’ Under 9 team won a tournament at Millwall’s New Den stadium, whilst next weekend every team from Under 8 to Under 15 join the Crystal Palace Foundation and Caterham Pumas in a round-robin competition in London, before our Under 10s compete in the annual Europa Cup, which this year is held at Lisbon’s iconic Stadium of Light.
The Shots beat Eltham Lions – who cruised through their qualification group with a 100% record – 1-0 in the Final at the New Den. Ryan Nevard’s team won two and drew two in their own qualifiers, conceding just one goal in the process, and he said: “It was a really good day, the kids loved it. They were buzzing as The New Den is now a Championship ground, after Millwall won promotion the day before. We played some really good football, for me better than any other team in the tournament, and the winner in the final was a superb goal.”
After facing the Crystal Palace Foundation in a round of fixtures earlier this month, the immediate invite to return was particularly gratifying for Nevard. “It bodes well for the players that went there. We obviously played well,” he recognises. “It is also the first time that we have entered an Under 8s team into a tournament, which is exciting. The Pumas are an excellent grassroots club and already have very strong links with Crystal Palace, so it’s a massive credit to us that we are being invited to join them.”
That first visit to face Crystal Palace was watched by several scouts, and for Youth Development Phase Manager Stephen Mills it is a familiar happy problem. “It shows that we are doing really well, and they want more fixtures against us to watch our players again. We don’t want to lose our best players but it could lead to a good promotion for them. We’ve got really good players involved at all ages, and hopefully that can continue.”
The season closes in early June with the Europa Cup in Lisbon, which sees the Under 10 squad compete against teams from across Europe and aiming to emulate the Under 15 squad who last year claimed Europa Cup silverware at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.
The squad fly to Lisbon on 8 June, before playing three group matches in Benfica’s Academy Stadium on day two, and three knockout matches at the Estadio Da Luz itself on day three. The team will be based at the Amazonia Jamor Hotel in Oieras, a four-star hotel eight miles from Lisbon city centre.
“You always learn new things on tour, and how to deal with different situations and environments,” admits Mills. “Nutrition and hydration is vital when you’re playing in 25 degrees of heat. When our Under 16s went to Lisbon in April they played at 2pm, the hottest part of the day, and that might be the first time they have ever played in such conditions.
“But that is what it is about, helping them to learn new things all the time, and developing as both players and people.”
**For full details of youth team trials, click here**