Academy Manager Ross McNeilly gives us an update on the Academy, returning to action, what’s back on, plans moving forward, lockdown and up and coming events!

Hear what the academy gaffer had to say in full:

Q: So what has it been like for the academy returning?

“We came back on the 31st March for the U9s-U16s. Yeah, it’s been pretty frantic with everyone coming back at once after being off for such a long period of time. The U23s, 18s and 19s have been back a little bit longer so the preparation to get the younger ones in was made easier by having them in.

“Yeah, it’s good to be back and we have lots and lots of games like a ridiculous amount which is great over into April, May and even June so it’s good for the kids really and good for everyone to be back.”

Q: What teams are back in action and what’s going on right now?

“The games have predominantly been the U23s and U18s. The U18s and U23s are playing friendlies, looking to move into subsidiary stuff. The U18s are Allied and U23s are the Suburban.

“The U18s actually have a fixture Thursday night (8th April) against Camberley Town in the Rayner Challenge Cup which is an Aldershot based cup which is great. The youngsters (Foundation Phase to the U7s-U12s) have been playing against Dartford and even going to Eastleigh.

“We’ve played against a local grassroots side Farnham United as well which is something that’s important to do, certainly with the younger ones. Yeah, it’s been pretty manic but it’s just nice to be playing.

“The U18s played Uxbridge on Monday just gone (5th April) and even though it was a friendly because everyone was back and the boys looked after themselves over lockdown, it didn’t feel like a friendly which was great. It’s so good to be back and to be playing games again.”

Q: How did this lockdown compare to the other lockdowns? What’s changed and how have you become more prepared?

“We learnt a lot in the first lockdown from delivery and what to deliver and the sort of content to deliver. Looking back, we were disorganised in terms of what that looked like but when it came to the longer one in January, February and March, that was a big opportunity for us to put on a product that we’d learnt a lot from last time.

“We were able to deliver more content, more organised and more delivery in what we wanted to get across. I think from a staffing and club perspective, the second lockdown was a lot easier however from a player and child’s perspective, I can imagine they found it difficult and found it really challenging.

“You can use the U18s as an example. Some of those boys who have come into the U18s from U16s two years ago will never finish a U18 season and lots of people are missing different sort of formats of the game which I think is very important especially for their development and mental health. It must be quite challenging for some.”

Q: Despite the challenges, there must be an aim to get as many of them as you can into the first-team like Ryan (Hall) and Ben (Shroll) who have featured for the first-team recently.

“Yeah, definitely. Obviously, there has been Ryan, Ben, Harry Taylor and Reece Miller in the last 12 months. It’s important that we have that system but again that’s down to Danny (Searle) and Anwar (Uddin) isn’t it in providing that pathway which they’re very good at and it makes my job a lot easier when people like that are willing to give the youth an opportunity.

“Of course, that’s always the idea. Hopefully, in the next couple of months, we might see Reece Wylie and one or two more go in and be involved around there. Again, the progress of the first-team has been very positive so to have youth involved in that is very good.”

Q: What are your plans moving forward? What are your aims and objectives in the months to come?

“We just wanted to get back playing really and get back safely making sure that we follow the guidance that was set to us. We just want to play games, that’s really all we want to do. I think even over where we’ve trained throughout, the U18s and U23s are a good example.

“We’ve trained all throughout March so, from our perspective, we just want to play as many games as we can to make up for lost time. A lot of credit goes to different leagues and different teams in this area who are very keen to do that which is great. Just playing games and enjoying playing a lot of games, that’s all as a club and an academy that we really want in the coming months.

“It’s a couple of months different to any others that we’ve ever experienced so just enjoying playing football is our main goal.”

Q: Are there any up and coming events for the academy?

“Yeah, obviously we have our own development centres which is something we are trying to get out. Obviously, we’ve had ones at Alderwood and one at Tomlins Court and we have our own little kickers events on Saturday morning as well at St Joseph’s in Aldershot.

“Then with our camps, we have a partnership with the Foundation. We do academy and foundation based camps and they’re over Easter. There will be loads of them over half-term and then there will be some in the Summer as well.

“There are lots of different things like that and then the big thing is our U18s, U19s and U23s is our recruitment and open trials in the U18s and U19s which are up and coming this Friday (9th April) which are fully booked and we’ll have some more in June.

“As you can imagine, there are lots of year 11 and 12 boys who are very keen to trial because they haven’t had that opportunity for whichever club or whichever program that may be.”


You can watch the full interview on the academy’s official YouTube channel HERE!