Mansfield Town’s Academy Manager John Dempster has spoken of his delight of players making the transition from the youth set-up to the first team.
Lewis Gibbens, Jordan Graham, Henri Wilder and Tyler Blake have all made the step-up with defender Gibbens taking a regular spot on the bench as the clubs home grown player as per new EFL Ruling.
Dempster, who has overseen the development of the new academy since hanging up his boots as a player, said “The boys that have made the step up have a long way to go but the experience they are getting, training with the senior pros – what they’re learning on a day to day basis is something we [the academy] can’t actually give them. The link between Academy and first team has been brilliant – I can’t ask for much more really”
The former central defender who was part of the conference winning side added “Having been to see the first team in pre-season and starting the league and cup campaign, these [young] players are going to have to really step up because standards have gone up – the performance against Accrington was exceptional and it really hit home that we [the academy] have a lot of work to do [to match that standard].
“The manager [David Flitcroft] has put a massive emphasis on developing youngsters, he knows all of the under 18s, he knows all of the under 21 players – he’s keen to get them up as much as possible – he wants them training with the first team as much as possible.”
The Stags youngsters have won three consecutive titles in the Youth Alliance North East Division, Demspeter continued “Both the gaffer and Futch [Assistant boss Ben Futcher] have been really complimentary about the physiques, how they [the youngsters] are quite robust which is quite uncommon in academy players – they’ve been pleased with their intensity levels, as when they train with the first team they are pushed to the maximum.
“The feedback from the players is about the intensity of [first team] training, so we try and recreate that as much as possible, we mirror the formations that they play but one thing we can’t recreate is the actual playing/ training alongside the senior pros.
“We are still in our infancy just going into our fourth season so there are certain areas that I’ve highlighted that will help us improve the program and if we keep doing that, hopefully the players will keep improving and we’ll see one or two [more] in and around the first team at some point – but we do have to be patient, because the gap between under 18 and first team football is massive – but we are bridging it”
A full list of under 18 fixtures can be found here, whilst the fixtures for the under 21s, participating in the central league, can be found here.
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