Kevin Maher was in and around the first-team for a small part of last season and the U23's Manager was full of praise for the work the Academy and Kevin Bond did to help secure Blues' League One status last season...
All the success that springs from a player starts in the works of a club's Academy department and that is where the hard work, determination, and drive motivates young players to make a name for themselves and Maher is proud to be a part of that journey.
On being part of the journey a young player takes from academy to first-team football…
I don't have much input with the younger players, especially when they get sold on, but it's a massive plus for the academy seeing someone progress knowing that you've helped them along the way.
The players I deal with are the ones who come into the building when they are 16/17 years-old and then up to the Under 23's level, those players I will have a lot more involvement with.
Looking at the first team this year we’ve had a number of players come through and they're playing regularly.
Dru Yearwood’s played 60+ games and is still only 18, and that is a massive bonus for everyone in the academy.
I’d like to think I helped to play a part in that success.
When they come into the club I work with them every day and myself as a coach try to implement a lot of values about how they should work both on and off the pitch and how they go about their work.
You're working on them from the moment they walk into the building, to the second they leave for home.
On the successful Academy players coming into the first team…
To be honest it’s absolutely brilliant, for all the members of staff in the Academy.
To see a youth product get out and onto the pitch, to make his debut and to start to hold down a place in the team as well, that's the best feeling.
The first bit is great, make your debut then it’s the question of can you stay there, and can you start building a career from it.
Elvis (Bwomono) is another one of those players who have gone on to make a number of appearances and in his position of a right-back as well makes it even better for him.
The opportunities for the youngsters do come around and its just making sure that they are ready for the opportunity and making sure that they are grabbing it with both hands.
A lot of the boys have done exactly that and not looked out of place, Elvis and Nathan Bishop, I mean Nathan became a regular feature in goal last season and Dru was a regular for large parts of last season too.
Isaac Hutchinson is one of those players that gets let go by another club, his being Brighton and we sign him up. We’ve managed to mold him a bit to how we want him to play and how we work around here, the opportunities have come for him and he’s been taking them.
Michael Klass and Lewis Gard are another two players that have done well, it's unfortunate for Lewis because he got injured and was doing very well. But it’s brilliant for us in the Academy and brilliant for the players.
On his temporary role in charge of the first-team alongside Ricky Duncan…
The Shrewsbury game was a brilliant experience for me, the few days leading up to it we had to get a lot of work done that we felt was needed.
When you go out on the pitch you can’t change too much but you do what you can. The disappointing thing was the result because at that stage of the season the only thing that mattered was the actual result.
To have the Shrewsbury game here at Roots Hall just made it a brilliant experience but it was disappointing with the result.
On gaining that valuable first-team management experience…
I’m an ambitious person and I want to progress as well. Being in and around the first team I’d like to think that week we worked well with the players and a lot of ideas we put there and would have liked to have implemented.
If we could have given them the time they would have taken the ideas on board.
But one day I would like to be in and around the first team and experience that on a regular basis, not just for the odd match.
On his role with Kevin Bond at the end of last season…
To be fair to Kevin he worked hard on coaching the group of players himself and did a lot of it.
He put a lot of his own ideas across and ultimately because of that he managed to keep the club in League One which is great.
It’s good to see him work and obviously work with Kevin Keen who has been with the club for a period of time with the previous manager and now with Kevin Bond as well.
To watch him work and to help out when needed was a great experience and the more people you come across in the game and learn from then the better I think I’ll be for it when my time comes.
On his training towards a UEFA Pro Licence…
The course started in January, and the first block of training was just four days long, but the whole course is actually 18-months long and it looks at all the different aspects of management. The first few months have been a mixture of coaching and different types of management.
The whole group we're working with is very good, we have a lot of high-profile players and ex-coaches in the team. As you can imagine the standards are very high, which means it's a demanding course, but one I'm sure will benefit me.