Academy boss pleased with the progression of his young side and Blues stopper Ted.
Academy Manager Ricky Duncan has spoken of his delight at Ted Smith’s recent England U20s call-up and the progress that the current U18s squad have made at the start of the 2015/16 season.
Goalkeeper Smith is a graduate of the club’s Academy and has made four appearances for the first-team as understudy to predecessor Daniel Bentley, and he has followed up previous U18 and U19 representative honours with selection in Keith Downing’s squad to face the Czech Republic next week.
Duncan is delighted to have seen the youngster called up again: “I know it’s great that we’ve had five wins and the boys are playing some decent football and they’re starting to learn to grind out those type of results, but the pleasing thing for us this week was seeing Ted Smith get an England call-up because that’s another boy who’s come through the system,” he said.
“We mustn’t lose sight that, although we’re winning games of football, our job is to produce footballers. Winning is nice – we all like to win and the players love to win – but it’s also great to see Ted getting an England call-up, which is really nice for him and has given me a real buzz this week.
“You can see that the boys are really together, and it’s great that they’ve won five games, and we are all really pleased with that, but when I saw that Ted had got his England U20 call-up, that gave me a bigger buzz. He’s been really professional in his time with the club.”
Smith was youth team captain during the second year of his scholarship in 2013/14 and, although Sonny Coutts has been named U18s skipper for the current campaign, fellow central defender Abdul Salami has been wearing the armband whilst the Rayleigh-based teenager trains with the U21s.
Duncan has high praise for Salami’s development as a player and as an individual: “Abdul has stepped up massively and taken over the role. He’s leading the team and he’s pulling them together, and you can tell that he’s a confident kid. He listens and he wants to learn, and he has been outstanding,” he declared.
“When you talk about team spirit and togetherness, there were five boys that didn’t get on who were running at the end, and Abdul stayed out there and watched and, when they’d finished, he went and shook all their hands. You don’t get better than that as a skipper or as a team-mate.
“He knows the importance that those five boys might have to the team later in the season and he is making sure they still feel a part of this team. You can’t buy that; that’s a boy growing up, expanding and becoming a man and realising what they must feel like after sitting on the bench and not being involved as he knew, and now he’s trying to help them.”
Blues defeated AFC Wimbledon 2-1 in their most recent fixture, a victory that maintained the team’s 100% record at the beginning of the term, but it is the way that the squad have come together and connected so early in the season that has pleased the Academy boss.
“The result was fantastic and hopefully it continues – who wouldn’t want to keep winning? – but those key things like Ted’s England selection and Abdul growing into a man is testament to what is going on within the department. We had a big photo day on Saturday with all the kids in, so it’s been a really good day and we’ve topped it off with a nice win.
“The bottom line is that all these kids know that it’s about going on and getting a professional contract and playing for our first-team in the future. I want to make sure that people keep their feet on the ground and don’t get carried away with the results because it means nothing if we win this league and not one of these boys ever plays league football. If they don’t go on and play somewhere, then we’ve failed.
“I think Abdul and Sonny are two great kids to have to lead the team; they’ve pulled them together. The ones that aren’t involved are disappointed; it’s great when Tom Ripsher comes off and he doesn’t want to talk to you because he’s angry and frustrated – I would be.
“He wants to play football and he’s a young man, but the team’s playing well and Elvis [Bwomono] is playing well in his position, but there will be a point when we will need Tom Rispher. There will be a point when he’ll have to do a job for us and we know that he will do that for us, and I think that’s because the team spirit is there. Seeing Abdul staying there and shaking his hand must mean so much because he knows that he’s still a part of this team and that’s really, really important,” Duncan concluded.