In the latest Big Interview, we spoke to Blues’ U18 Coach Dave Huzzey to look back on a brilliant season for his side.
Firstly, your thoughts looking back on the season in which you finished in the top half in the merit league, a record points tally, and you pushed for the title.
I think I would go as far as saying it was our most successful season since I’ve been at the club in terms of, the most important thing, getting players into the first team in Dru Yearwood and Nathan Bishop as two second-year scholars, and also challenging for the league in both leagues.
In the first league we came second, only a couple of points behind MK Dons who won the league, and in the second part of the season, which is always a little harder because you’re playing against the best sides, we pushed them close.
We did that with a few players missing because they’ve either been with the U23s or the first team, so we can be really pleased with how we performed this year.
As a team, you progressed on last year and that in itself is what you want isn’t it?
Definitely, something we’ve been really conscious of is pushing people on and not being fixated on winning the league. Of course we want to go a bit further in the FA Youth Cup than we did this year, but we’re conscious of not fixating on that and winning the leagues.
It’s more important to get players in the first team and pushing players into the U23s. We’ve definitely done that this year and it’s progressed on from last year and we’re excited to push on next year.
Like we’ve touched on, the progress is two-fold because you want results but it’s also about producing players for first team football eventually.
That’s why this year has been the most successful.
And it wasn’t just Dru and Nathan, seeing Elvis [Bwomono], my youth team captain, perform regularly well and fitting into the first team like he has is exceptional.
Somebody like Lewis Gard, who has been at the football club since he was 8-years-old and I’ve worked with on a number of occasions, seeing these players come through the Academy and putting a shirt on for the first team and doing well is the ultimate goal.
It’s a really proud moment when I see that, like it is for everyone at the Academy. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into their progression and their development.
And with the ones that have been around the first team not available to you, it leaves opportunities for others. Somebody like Emile Acquah, who was prolific last season.
I feel a bit sorry for Emile because his success got a little bit overshadowed with others players getting into the first team.
What he’s done this year has been exceptional; to score the amount of goals he has  and put the level of performances he has. To be fair, he was injured for a while as well, so to get the number of goals he did is a credit to him and to the team.
Some of the service he got from second years, but also first years who have performed week in week out, in some cases against teams who are fielding third years, it’s a massive achievement.
Looking ahead to next season, you’re probably going to lose some players to U23 football aren’t you?
All the second year lads have got third year or pro contracts so I’ll lose them, so in my squad will just be the U16s that are coming up as first years, and then the first years from last season that become second years, so I’ll have a completely new squad.
Again, I think credit to the Academy. Not just the full time staff but the part time staff. If you could see the work they put in it’s unbelievable.
We’ve got another group of first year scholars coming in that are really good, really strong, and I’m just as excited as last year about the new ones coming in.
And what will the aims an objectives be for next season?
First and foremost it’s to keep nurturing the boys that are in the first team. Continuing to speak to the likes of Dru, Nathan, Lewis Gard, Elvis, because their experiences will help the boys that I’m coaching day in, day out.
So firstly it will be continuing that, but most importantly working with the group and making sure there’s another Dru Yearwood coming out of the group, which I’m sure there will be.
Pushing players into the U23s and then making sure we don’t slip off form-wise in the league and the big thing will be progressing further in the FA Youth Cup. We’ve been quite unlucky with the draws we’ve had in the last four years really. Teams from the top of our division for the last four years basically, but we will want to go further next season.