After last year’s successes, U18s Manager Chris Gibson has been busy in the close season making changes and improving his youth setup and management team, as well as tweaking things to an increasingly more structured system that will give the club growth throughout.
"After Peter Allen stepped down from his position, I needed to address the setup so we had a management team structure. In each role, you get pulled around a fair bit, so it was important I gave each of us flexibility and also set roles that could handle all situations. Nathan Nicholls steps up as Assistant Manager, but continues to be head coach when it comes to the training ground, looking to carry out specific routines and training as required. Andy Phillips takes Peter's role, liaising with officials, registrations and overall team observation. He's primed for this as in a preseason meeting, he showed eagerness to improve us and take on roles head on. Peter isn’t in the wilderness completely, he will be doing a bit of player analyses to newly created ‘Player Packs’ and I’m also keen to see him as a Parent Liaison Officer, being a supportive and informative voice to parents and management. I have also discussed with Gavin Stevenson the Elite's role this year, after an interesting season. It’s come to light we need to tweak our look on it and get the maximum from an excellent potential service into the U18s. This will also hopefully encourage the Colts U17 too and help feed several through both sections, making the step up to floodlit football less sizeable. The Colts have done an excellent job over the years keeping their age groups feeding into one another; I feel it’s going to help us in taking the local potential in sizeable groups as well as the talent that is in the Elite. The setup itself in the U18s will be more structured and also more educated from now. As mentioned we will be looking to create ‘Player Packs’, so their time with the U18s has targets, strengths, weaknesses and achievements in their time at the club. We hope this will see people aiming to improve and also give us facts and historic records. This will hopefully self motivate players and also helps us see who could progress. We are starting to look like a proper 'academy style' unit, so it’s important not to drop the high standards we have made for ourselves. The preseason programme this year will show just how serious I am in preparation for the new season; it’s important that we do the business on and off the pitch. I am yet to speak to Andy Furnell or Andy Coleman about their plans for the U18s but as I understand it, they are pretty keen to look at potential within the club. Ian Benjamin set a mark putting his trust in youthful sides and I reckon Furnell will be the same, as he has seen a lot of football and knows the importance of development in a club as a whole. We will look to merge the progress with the Reserves and hopefully with a Youth Development officer, we can see players progress at the club."