Youth Development Week | Develop the person as much as the player

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Matt said seeing players develop into first-team talent, a big part of his role, is incredibly rewarding.

“If you look at the boys who’ve been in and around like Kieron, Isaak, Rubin, they’ve all been here since they were eight years old. Then there are people like Joel, who came from Southampton and did his fellowship with us. The schoolboy program has always had talent. It’s great to see that they now have an opportunity and there is a clear path for them in the first team.

“It’s really inspiring for our young players now in the age groups to see boys who were in the academy a year ago now playing in the first team. It could be them in a year. That’s in a very good place at the minute.

With more players moving up the City ranks, Oli is working tirelessly to ensure Academy talent has a top education and the opportunity to gain qualifications.

“Balance is essential. In our day release program for U9 players up to U16, we have three hours of education per day and then they receive three hours of coaching.

“For the U18s, education takes ten hours a week, so they’re with us all day on a Wednesday, Monday afternoon and Friday doing a BTEC and an NVQ and it’s really important for them to understand why they’re doing this. It’s very easy for them to show up, but slowly we’re getting there.

“This year is the first year all the boys want to do their extended degree, so it’s the equivalent of three A-Levels, normally we get about three or four.

“Rubin, Sparky and Joel have all taken the extended diploma and now all the boys want to do it so it’s amazing. They might not need it later in life but it gives them such a big boost. opportunity and options, whether it’s colleges, apprenticeships, jobs, so we’re trying to get players to understand how important their education is.

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