Academy Manager Ross McNeilly gives us an update on the latest with the academy, playing on the EBB pitch, recent call-ups to the first-team, pre-season plans and upcoming summer camps and development centres!
Hear what the academy manager had to say in full:
Q: Ross, we’re filming this just before a bit of a derby on the pitch today. Let’s talk about how things are going in general with the academy.
“Yes, so we’ve obviously got Woking U19’s today (Wednesday 26th May) at the EBB obviously against our own U19’s. This probably will be one of their last games and there are quite a few boys out who are in and around the first-team but after today, we should have a semi-final coming up for the U23’s which means we might get to a final.
“The U18’s tonight (26th May) are playing Camberley at the EBB and they also have an opportunity to get to another final which would be the Allied Cup on Bank Holiday Monday (31st May) at Ascot so two big games over the next week for those two age groups and a few friendlies here and there which we will try to play at the EBB Stadium.”
Q: It’s a good chance for these young lads to play on the pitch (EBB) and a good experience for them to see that this could be what you’re doing in a few years.
“Yeah, definitely. We don’t get many opportunities to play on the pitch which is obviously fine as it’s for the first-team and stuff but we do get that opportunity towards the end of the season. It’s a good experience certainly for the younger players to feel the pressure a little bit of playing here and get a feel of what the atmosphere could be like or playing on a full-sized pitch.
“It’s a good experience, we try to do as much as we can. We normally get the youngsters on in a tournament which hasn’t quite worked out this year but overall a great experience for these lads.”
Q: Any upcoming big games for the lads, any to be aware of?
“The youngsters (U9’s-U16’s) have cup competitions coming up. They have been playing knockouts since returning from lockdown so I think we have a couple of quarter-finals and semi-finals which might lead to some national stuff which is pretty cool.
“Aside from the U18-U23’s, everything else is sort of friendlies and we’re trying to sort of go on until about the 11th June and look to come back around July.”
Q: Obviously with the first-team, we’ve had a few players from the academy go on to make their debuts this season with the first-team. How are players progressing in terms of making it to the first-team?
“Obviously, we have two Reece’s (Wylie and Miller), Ryan (Hall) who played the other day, Ben Shroll as well and Joe Rabbetts. Recently, Elis Watts and Alfie Saunders have joined the first-team full-time which is great. A couple of the other players such as Harvey Walker, George Sheridan, Dan Walster are sort of in and around that group.
“Hopefully, we will see them get an opportunity around pre-season to push on and to have a go and experience being involved with the first-team in training and potentially some of the friendly fixtures. So, yeah all good, having so many boys in there is really good.”
Q: And I bet you’re proud of them as well being the Academy Manager?
“Yeah, it’s my job to get as many through as we can and to see those players’ qualities. It would be nice to see a few more play on Saturday potentially.”
Q: You mentioned pre-season. What are the pre-season plans for the academy?
“Yeah, so we’re back on the 5th July, certainly with the U18’s, U19’s and U23’s. The week after, we probably return with the U9-U16’s, it doesn’t really feel like we’ve stopped, to be honest. It sort of continues through lockdown so a break would be good for the kids, certainly that three-to-four week break and then hopefully come back and get a normal season which would be our first for two years.”
Q: When talking to you, you were talking about the summer camps and DC’s (Development Centres) that you have coming up for the younger lads as well.
“Yes, so DC’s are a little bit different. Our development centres are ongoing until the school holidays so they stay until mid-July and then return in September so obviously, they can be booked online. For the Holiday camps, we have one coming up in June and all the other camps are over the summer.
“Hopefully, we will be packed out. We’ve been doing quite well, getting between 30 and 40 kids on those camps which is really positive and run by our academy coaches. Hopefully, the development centres will continually grow into the new season. It’s been difficult with COVID-19 and lockdown but a bit of consistency might see the kids develop just that little bit more.”
You can watch the full interview on the academy’s official YouTube channel HERE!