Youth team coach pleased with young Blues hitting targets - in more ways than one.
Youth team coach Dave Huzzey was happy with the way that his squad managed to hit their monthly targets within the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) as well as recording a 3-1 victory over Peterborough United U18s on Saturday.
Two goals from forward Norman Wabo and a second half finish by Harry Phillips gave Blues the three points after they had fallen behind in the 28th minute, but the coach was equally as happy with the manner in which the side kept the ball during the game by implementing their EPPP learning on the pitch.
“I’m happy with the result, and I’m happy with the performance as well,” said Huzzey after the game. “Our topic this month is possession and we had long spells of possession. We were very good in possession; we both retained it and progressed and overall I was really happy with today.
“It’s going to sound wrong, but I wasn’t disappointed when Peterborough went ahead. It was a good learning curve for them, and this is where we talk about results not mattering as much. The fact that they went ahead was a brilliant learning curve for the boys because they came off at half-time expecting me to rant and rave, but I wanted to give them the impression that I was calm and happy.
“I know it was 1-1 at half-time because we scored, but I just wanted to tell them to calm down because we were the better team by miles in my eyes and according to everyone else on the side of the pitch. I told them to calm down and relax and the goals would come, and I think they showed that in the second half and towards the end of the first half where they didn’t rush the play and they relaxed a little bit.
“The only thing I was worried about was that we had loads of possession and long spells in possession, but how many shots did we have? From an Academy point-of-view, it was excellent because we were achieving the month’s targets in possession but from a first-team point-of-view, and if the boys want to get into the first-team, they needed to be more ruthless in front of goal.”
One player who did show his ruthless side was Wabo, who was restored to the starting line-up and made the most of his opportunity with a goal in each half, firstly rifling in the equaliser seven minutes before the break from Renei Batlokwa’s pass and then heading home a Damani Dias cross from close range early in the second period.
“In the second half, we wanted to keep the possession but be a little bit more ruthless in and around the goal, and I think we did that. Norman has got a little chance now to get a couple of games under his belt and prove that he should stay in the team. One thing about Norman is he will score goals for you, and he’s done that at Northampton when he came on as a sub and scored and today he has scored two.
“I was a little bit disappointed in the first half with his movement, and I think he needed to stretch the game for us a little bit, but I can only give him credit for his finishing. He only had that one chance, where he got the ball out of his feet, in the first half and in the second he was in and around the goal to score. As the game went on, his performance got better and better and better,” said Huzzey.
And the 25-year-old was also pleased with the way that the team added a third goal on 63 minutes as Phillips completed a wonderful team move. Huzzey felt that goal epitomised the way that the side play their football, and their quality in midfield: “I’d told the boys at half-time that they won’t score many goals where they pass it all the way through and pass it into the goal like Arsenal try and do every week,” he revealed.
“I told them to be a little more ruthless when the ball gets in the final third, and then they proved me wrong by doing a lovely little move with lots of nice passes and then getting in and scoring, which is brilliant, especially with this month being about possession. The number of passes we made for the goal was superb.
“I’m going to make a bold statement: I’d say the midfield three we’ve got at the moment with Harry Phillips, Renei Batlokwa and Joe Bedford are probably one of the best midfields I’ve worked with and I think they’re the best in the league. It’s hard to choose who has the better games each week because they all do their roles really well but I think that Joe, for the last month or more, has been top, top class.
“It’s not just on a Saturday, here, that you get to see it; I see it in the 11v11 vs the first-team on a Friday, I see it in midweek and everyone in and around the training ground is starting to see it. He deserves all the praise he gets; he had a tough year last year mentally more than anything, but this year he seems to have got his head right and every day in training he’s on it.
“He doesn’t get involved in any of the unprofessional stuff, he’s spot on, and he’s brilliant for someone like Ben Musselwhite, who will be just as good. Ben will learn a lot from Joe. It was brilliant today to have them both on the pitch at the same time. I think Joe’s come on massively since his first year; he’s always had the ability, he’s always had the awareness and the game understanding, but I think it’s his mental side and social side that’s improved tremendously.”
Huzzey concluded by revealing that the sensational start that Southend have made to the 2015/16 Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference campaign has given both himself and Academy Manager Ricky Duncan the license to experiment. Eight wins from eight games have put Blues at the top of the table, but the priority remains player development.
“We put Tom Ripsher on at right-back and Elvis Bwomono as a right midfielder, and I thought he did really well; the boy’s movement and enthusiasm is class anyway, so I knew that he’d be fine, but the start we’ve had definitely gives us a bit more freedom. I still want to win every game, but I want to progress players like I did in the first game.
“It does give us freedom to try new things and experiment a bit more. The one thing about this team is that it doesn’t take me, or Rick, or Tel, or Amy, to drill into them about winning games, they do it themselves, so they’ll always have that desire to win games and, hopefully, they’ll have that throughout their career,” he added.