Lead Foundation Development Phase coach Ross White gives us an update on Reece Wylie’s first-team National League debut on Saturday, U23’s recent fixtures and results as well as upcoming fixtures, the importance of the return of football and how the academy has flourished and targets for the U23’s!

Hear what the U23’s lead coach had to say in full:

Q: Reece Wylie made his first National League appearance against Hartlepool United on Saturday. How proud do you feel for him? And are there any more potential graduates at the moment?

“Yeah, no. Listen, it was a great moment for Reece and his family obviously like he has been at the club for a long time, and he’s come up through the system and he’s come up through our U18’s to U23’s. Obviously, he got his reward at the start of the season by getting himself a contract.

“I know Reece will do well, because of how he was under us, works hard, always wanting to develop, always wanting to get better, and most importantly, kept his focus and got his head down. That’s why obviously now he’s obviously getting the rewards and I mean, he knows we’ve had conversations that he needs to be just a level above now. Now he needs to do exactly the same thing. Head down, work hard and then obviously he’ll get more rewards to come in the near future hopefully.”

Q: In recent weeks, who have the U23’s played, what are their most recent results? Are there any upcoming fixtures?

“Yeah, so how it’s worked since we’ve been back we’ve been put into like a mini-league where we played three teams so we’ve played Lingfield, Sutton Common Rovers and Horley U23’s and some of their first teams.

“We played them twice we’ve won every game bar one which we drew. So we naturally go through the top of this group and then we go into the quarter-finals, which I don’t know who we are up against as it hasn’t been drawn yet, but we’re going through to a quarter-final probably end of next week, which is when we should know and hopefully we can kick on from there.”

Q: Will your objectives be reaching the finals now that you’ve reached the quarter-finals?

“Of course, we always speak to the boys about like we never really play a game of football to lose or draw. Of course, you want to win but we have to think about principles and how we do it as this is important to us as an academy. Obviously, the process is more important than just winning a final.

“Our success is to develop boys and get boys into the first-team and of course we want to go through the whole competition undefeated and of course we do want to win a final so that’s the boys’ objective, but it needs to be our way our philosophy and more importantly, boys developing so they’re getting nearer and nearer to the first-team.”

Q: How important has the return of football been for the academy and how have they flourished since lockdown?

“Of course, I think it was. It’s important for everyone who plays football, not just our academy. Our boys were brilliant over the lockdown in terms of the remote learning and they were in full time. That involved analysis sessions, fitness sessions, group sessions and leadership sessions so in that time off, we’ve tried our best with the resources that we have to keep them engaged and keep them fit.

“So when we came back in, we were hitting the ground running and to be fair to them, the U23’s have been brilliant and the whole academy have been brilliant. The U23’s have really kicked on in terms of having not lost a game yet since being back and hopefully, they will get their success as I said earlier about getting their opportunities with Danny (Searle) and Anwar (Uddin) in the first team.”

Q: What are your targets for the U23’s in the near future? What do you hope for?

“So, it’s a really important time for the U23’s especially in this part of the season because we’re coming towards the end of the season so we have to look to the future. We have a group of players who are now involved with the first team so we’ve got Alfie (Saunders) and Elis (Watts) who are now training full time with the first team where they will be kept on for next season.

“Alfie is a brilliant right back, very committed strong. Good on the ball. Elis different kind of player, very technical, likes to get in the pockets, very attacking and likes scoring goals. They’re two of the small group of boys that we will be moving forward to next season and hopefully, then a small group of boys will be with the first team in pre-season and it almost goes into being now it’s up to them to go prove to Danny and Anwar why they should be in that mix.

“We’ve got Harvey (Walker), we’ve got Dan Walster, George Sheridan and Tommy (Willard), all brilliant footballers, completely different attributes but we feel like they’re the players that could make that step up but of course, they’ve got to go and prove themselves as footballers.”


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