We caught up with Under 18s manager Chris Barker following a 3-2 win in the Central League on Tuesday.
With a team made up of first and second-year scholars, barring goalkeeper Lewis Thomas, he reflected on what has been a great season for the next generation, with the Under 18s claiming the Merit League Two title last Saturday with a win over Leyton Orient. Here is what he had to say…
A 3-2 win today against Plymouth, a nice way to end the Central League and a great couple of days for the Under 18s?
Yeah, really good. Over the last three or four days, we’ve obviously shared the league with Plymouth on Saturday with a good win and performance and then three days later we’ve come and played against them. They were playing against older players and older pros and it was a good performance, especially in the first half, playing out from the back, two good goals and some really good performances.
The two goals in the second half were the difference, good team goals and that must be pleasing to see?
The first-team manager took a training session with the boys on Monday night and you can see that in the game today. We train them week-in-week-out at how to play out from the back and we see it a lot on Saturday mornings as well, so they are listening and they are understanding it and taking it into the games. It’s nice to see from a coaching point of view. The performance from the boys, they were very good today.
How much have you seen this group develop from the start of the season to where they are now?
We’ve had the second years two years now and to see where they have come from, from boys to men now on and off the field. With the first years as well, they have set a high bar for the first year of their scholarship and hopefully they will keep pushing on next year and we’ve just told them out there now to be ready for pre-season come July 1 and we hope to kick on once again.
How good is the Central League as a competition in that development?
It’s very good for the boys to have opportunities to play in front of the manager and the first-team staff because there will be some clubs where they can’t get that. They’ve got to reach the bar where the pros are and there is nothing better than actually playing against each other and seeing where you have got to get to in terms of fitness, strength, playing on the ball, out of possession, it’s good for them to have these opportunities.