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Dave Huzzey: Winning run is brilliant, but player development comes first

31 August 2015

Huzzey pleased as winning run goes on with victory over AFC Wimbledon.

Southend United U18s coach Dave Huzzey sounded a cautious note following the latest victory for his squad, who defeated AFC Wimbledon 2-1 at Boots & Laces on Saturday morning.

The success was Southend’s fifth consecutive triumph at the start of the campaign, and took Blues to the top of the fledgling Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference table, but Huzzey was at pains to point out that it is player development, rather than results, which will define the 2015/16 campaign.

“It was another good victory and another three points, but I’m a little bit worried that we’re starting to grind results out rather than kill games off when we’re on top, and I think we were on top for quite a few spells of the game. It was another excellent performance overall,” he remarked.

“I want to make it clear that the unbeaten run doesn’t mean anything to myself or Rick. Our job is to get players into the U21s or into the first-team, so we don’t look at the fact that they’ve won five in a row at all. The boys do, and sometimes that is a problem because there is an element that we’re just playing to win games now and that could become the mindset, but we’ll make sure it’s not.

“Hopefully we’ll keep on winning, because that’s what everyone wants, but more importantly we have to keep on developing, and we have to make sure that the winning doesn’t sacrifice the development, and that’s the biggest message from today.

Southend enjoyed some good periods during their most recent victory, with some excellent build-up play in and around the penalty area causing their opponents problems and then good work on the training ground during the week being implemented on the pitch.

“There were glimpses when we were really, really good in possession, and even out of possession we had done loads in training on Friday about pressing, and I thought we were brilliant at that. But this team still has loads and loads to learn; I don’t want anyone thinking it’s the finished article because it’s not. They’re still developing, and just because they’ve won five on the bounce doesn’t mean they’re ready to step up.

“They’re still developing and they’ve still got a long, long way to go, but the passages of play today when we were in possession were really, really good and we have been good since the start of the season, which is pleasing,” said Huzzey.

The coach also had warm words for forward Dan Walker, who marked his second start of the season with a brace of goals to add to the pair he netted at Northampton Town seven days earlier. The tall striker also grabbed a hat-trick in a friendly win at Sawbridgeworth Town, taking his tally to seven goals in the last ten days.

“Dan warrants the starts he’s had and he also warrants the goals he’s got because of his hard work and his desire every day in training to make sure he’s the best, and to make sure he works harder to improve. Once again, he’s not the finished article and there’s still loads to tidy up around Dan, but he’s becoming a real handful and other teams have started noticing him,” Huzzey claimed.

“They’ve started pointing him out to us and saying that they couldn’t handle him, so there’s some good compliments there for Dan. He still could do more, but in the last two games that he’s started he’s scored four goals and that’s tremendous.

“It’s nice for him and it’s nice for us a team. He got injured in pre-season last year and missed seven or eight months of the season, and mentally that was tough for him. We had loads of meetings where he didn’t know whether it would be best to stick at his education and forget about football, but me, Rick and his mum and his family talked him round not to do that.

“Now we’re reaping the rewards for that. He’s come back with a completely different mindset; he wants to be a professional footballer and he wants to work hard every day to do that and he’s showing that in his performances and with his goals.”

And, as Huzzey looked forward to next weekend’s clash at Milton Keynes Dons, he again emphasised how important the entire squad were to his plans: “One thing I want to reiterate is how important our subs are, even though they might only be getting five or ten minutes on the pitch. The reason our team is so good this year is because our bench is so good, and our bench pushes our starting eleven every week.

“Every week it is tough to pick between Tom Ripsher and Joe Mackenzie or Abdul Salami, between Ben Musselwhite and Joe Bedford and between Imani Matthews or the centre-forward. Things like that are really difficult for us, so they push the team on to play better and to make sure that they don’t get that shirt.

“The ability on the bench is just as good as the ability on the pitch and that makes a massive difference, especially in the last 10-15 minutes of games when maybe the mindset might be that we’re 2-1 up, so let’s just shut-up shop and they come on and do exactly that. It’s the desire they’ve got – the likes of Damani Dias and Ben and James Macree – and their work-rate and application and desire to get on the pitch is perfect.

“MK Dons are always good. They won’t worry about not having had the best start to the season because they will still produce players at the end of it, and that’s brilliant. That’s the mindset we have to have; we have to make sure we keep on developing. MK Dons will be a really good side; for us, they’re hard to play against because of the rotation of their players and that’s hard to deal with, but we’ll go into the game hoping to develop the players again,” he concluded.

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