Bittersweet weekend for Blues U18s' youth team coach.
Southend United’s youth team coach Dave Huzzey focussed on Joe Bedford’s call-up to the first-team squad as he looked back on a narrow 1-0 defeat to AFC Wimbledon on Saturday.
Bedford warmed up with the squad ahead of the League One clash against Blackpool at Roots Hall, and Huzzey was delighted that the second-year scholar, who has been an integral figure in the youth team this term, had earned recognition for his performances.
“I think Joe’s call-up to the first-team squad over-rides anything that’s happened today,” he declared. “That’s a big achievement for the Academy and for a player that’s been with us since U9s, so for every coach in the Academy - and not just the U18s because I think we sometimes reap the rewards for what they’ve done - that’s a massive achievement and a reward for their hard work.
“He’s had a really, really good season this year. It’s brilliant timing. He’s always been one of the best players coming up through the age groups. Others have left, but he’s carried on and he, along with Sonny Coutts and Harry Phillips from that age group, have all come on.
“He’s really kicked on this season and he really does deserve it. It’ll be a different experience for him, and he’ll be out of his comfort zone, which is good, and hopefully it’ll be something he experiences a little bit more of if he does well enough. It gives every U9 an opportunity because every U9 sees that there’s a route to the first-team within this football club with the manager and the backroom staff that we’ve got here.”
Huzzey was frustrated, however, with the performance that the Bedford-less Blues put in at AFC Wimbledon, who scored the only goal of the game after just five minutes through Alfie Egan. Although the coach believed his team could have secured a point from a hard-fought clash, he admitted that the hosts had edged the encounter.
“I’m disappointed in the boys this week. The first half performance was nowhere near good enough, especially after the week we’ve had. I expected better from the boys. We didn’t get close enough to them in the midfield and I thought Wimbledon deserved to go in 1-0 up even though we had a really good chance with Damani Dias, who should have scored,” he opined.
“I thought in the second half we got a little bit of a reaction. The boys rolled their sleeves up and had a real good go, but the thing I would question is: how many shots did we have on target and how many shots did we have on the goal? I remember one chance for Harry Phillips where he was one-v-one with the goalkeeper and maybe he should’ve scored, but other than that we had a go.
“For me, a draw would’ve been a fair result, and that may be a little harsh on Wimbledon, because I thought they were good. Defensively they were very strong; they looked older than us physically, and I think that’s where we have to find an alternative to score. If we’re going to score against organised teams, we have to create in different ways.
“We didn’t do that today, and in the last ten minutes we were on top. It looked like we might nick something, but we couldn’t find an alternative to putting the ball in the box and letting Dan Walker try and fight with the two centre-halves. We needed to find something else, and we didn’t do that well enough,” he added.
And, despite experimenting with the starting line-up, Huzzey felt that there was much to work on for his young charges: “We changed it quite a bit today with Joe Bedford getting called up to the first-team. Tom Ripsher came in at right-back and Elvis went across to play left-back. Tom Clifford came into the centre of the midfield and I thought Tom and Ben Musselwhite weren’t bad at all,” he explained.
“In possession, Tom is very good, and he’ll have to learn the role out of possession. We expected that, and we didn’t expect him to be unbelievable at both sides. He’ll need time to learn, and I expect he’ll get that after today’s performance, whilst Tom Ripsher did OK playing out of position.
“Elvis needs a little more practice on his weaker side because I felt he struggled to defend on his left which, as a modern-day full-back, with modern-day wingers capable of going either side, he’ll have to learn that. It won’t be the last time he plays left-back because we want him to experience that,” he predicted.