Michael Hamilton has put together a round-up of recent events at our academy, including news of a visit from a leading French coach.
In his update below, our Academy Manager also mentions the importance of staffing changes to our youth set-up and the recent match to support former Dons youth player Antonio Walker.
French Federation visit
I was recently contacted by the French Football Federation to see if the academy would be interested in hosting some of the national coaches. The purpose of it being that they visit the UK, learn and experience the life over here, whilst combining it with visiting clubs, so that they learn about their development programme. The first of three guests to visit us was Jean-Claude Giutini, who is the French National team Under-17s manager. He visited us and gained an insight into the programme we are delivering here. Jean-Claude has worked with most of the French players who had gone through to the senior French set-up via the youth teams. Therefore, it was interesting to hear him discuss the development of players such as Kylian Mbappe, Tanguy Ndombele and Lucas Hernandez.
As we recently announced, we appointed Michael Cook to the newly created Academy Operations Manager. I feel that Michael will enable us to maximise the output in key areas of the academy. The role will naturally evolve as it’s the first of its kind for the academy, with the main responsibility being around the senior administrative and operational tasks, including project managing our annual audit process.
On the pitch, it’s been great to get the academy programme back up and running after the summer break. The U18s, having had a very productive pre-season trip to Seville, have started the EFL youth season in fine form. We’ve had some very exciting performances as a group and the competitiveness of the team is even more impressive, particularly as a few of the second-year scholars are now out on loan. While they are out experiencing senior football, it has meant that most of the line ups this season have heavily featured first-year scholars.
James Oliver Pearce, who is leading the Under-16s, has led his squad to end September on top of their league. The U-16s have shown some promising early form and this has already resulted in a few of the U-16s being given opportunities to step-up and play for the U18s.
Last, but not least, I’d like to send, on behalf of the academy, condolences to the family of ex-academy player Antonio Walker. Antonio’s mother Angelina died recently and as many of you will know, an AFC Wimbledon XI played a Whyteleafe XI in a game to mark her memory.
It was great to see ex-academy players such as Alfie Egan, Seanan McKillop, Reece Williams-Bowers and Jason Stripp pull on the blue of Wimbledon again. Thanks to everybody who supported the cause, either by attending the game or donating to the Just Giving page.
I’d like to give a special mention to James Oliver Pearce, who brought the idea of the game to the table, and played a massive part in it all coming together.