Academy Manager happy with how the under-18's have taken to the task at hand
With Southend United U18s already two fixtures into their pre-season campaign, Academy Manager Ricky Duncan is pleased with the manner in which the squad have taken to their task since the summer break.
Blues lost 2-0 in their opening friendly against Millwall before a 4-0 triumph over Oxford United last week, and Duncan believes that preparations are going well: “We’ve come back in and we’re trying to bed down a system,” he revealed.
“The kids have come back looking sharp; last week we played Millwall with two 30 minute periods and two 15s so it was quite a disjointed game, but against Oxford it was two 45s and all about people getting quality minutes on the pitch.”
“What was pleasing was we kept the ball and we moved it well. We looked to exploit space in behind and play it to feet, so there was a big difference between last week and this week. It shows that, in a week’s work, the lads have taken quite a lot of information on board, so we’re pleased with them,” he added.
The work actually began as soon as squad left Boots & Laces in May, with strength and conditioning coach Stefan Russo putting together a fitness schedule for the first and second-year scholars: “I think the boys looked after themselves away from the club,” Duncan said.
“They were given a programme by Stef; obviously it was a decent programme and the boys took it on board. They did the extra running, so they’ve come back fit for what is only a four-week pre-season.”
“We’re pleased with that and Stef’s pleased with the results they’ve been getting in their testing, and I think that showed in the last game in the way that we were moving the ball around. Being fitter, we can move the ball a lot quicker, and overall we’re pleased with the way they’re approaching pre-season.”
Duncan’s charges will now take on ex-Shrimper Mark Beard’s Academy on Saturday before travelling to Ipswich (26th July), Colchester United (29th July) and Charlton Athletic (30th July) ahead of their Football League Youth Alliance opener at home to Gillingham on 2nd August.
The boss feels that the pre-season schedule is perfectly-formed to give the squad the ability to be ready when the new season begins next month: “I wanted to make sure that they had a good test because, with it being a short pre-season and then the new season starting with Gillingham at home, I wanted us to be up-and-running straight away. I stressed that to them when they went away for the summer.”
“Millwall were good and Oxford beat us last year in The FA Youth Cup. Straight after that game I offered them a pre-season match; I wanted them to come down because of the way the game went that night. That match recently was pleasing; they’re a good club and Chris [Allen] is a great coach and a good friend.”
“With the other games, I wanted the Ipswichs and the Colchesters so that there was a mixture in the type of football for them. I think it’s a good pre-season with Charlton as well at their place, which is always a good fixture.”
“They’ll all be good tests, including Mark Beard’s Academy side, which will be a different type of match for us. It’s all geared to get ready for that game against Gillingham and then the League programme that we’ve got this year,” he concluded.