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What’s next? Michael's season review

A detailed look back at the campaign

13 June 2023

Club News

What’s next? Michael's season review

A detailed look back at the campaign

13 June 2023

Academy Manager Michael Hamilton reviews the 2022/23 season and looks ahead to the future.

At the beginning of May, the Academy Management started the process of internally auditing our performances across the different departments against our objectives.

The purpose is to not only look at how we’ve done in the season, but also to start painting a picture of what ‘next’ looks like.

The main departments that form our programme are:

  • Coaching and Development
  • Player Care
  • Education
  • Professional Phase (Under-18s)
  • Youth Phase (Under-15s to 16s)
  • Mid Phase (Under-12s to 14s)
  • Foundation Phase (Under-9s to 11s)
  • Talent Identification and Recruitment
  • Physical Development
  • Performance Analysis
  • Operations
  • Medical

This process still hasn’t been concluded, with the management being tasked with adding detail to the initial review ahead of the new season.

Whilst the sale of Spike Brits to Manchester City attracted a lot of attention, it’s important to remember that we are an Academy of over 120 players, with well over 30 staff and despite achieving some milestones over the last few seasons, we cannot afford to stand still.

Our 2022/23 season achievements include:

  • 139 consecutive first-team games where an Academy player has started (dating back to our game vs Shrewsbury in October 2020).
  • Jack Currie winning the Club’s Young Player of the Year award.
  • Passing the 1000-game (across all competitions) mark for first-team appearances from Academy players since the Academy’s formation in 2012.

As well as setting the following new club records:

  • The first-team’s matchday squad away at Barrow (25/03/23) contained nine Academy graduates, making up 50% of the matchday squad.
  • Nine league debuts were given to Academy graduates: Quaine Bartley, Huseyin Biler, Jack Currie, David Fisher, Kwaku Frimpong, Luke Jenkins, Isaac Ogundere, Morgan Williams, Obed Yeboah.

These are the ones that will make the headlines, as they are all productivity related, however it’s probably more important to recognise the achievements that happen in the background, as these create the foundations that enable us to build.

COACHING AND DEVELOPMENT

  • We have significantly increased the volume of Player Led Games across the Academy, a pioneering development tool that embeds our Academy value of developing self-managing athletes.
  • The introduction of the Mid Phase has enabled us to add further detail to the programme for Individual Player Development.
  • The appointment of Alf Galustain as Technical Consultant, has enabled us to provide variety in our CPD programme.

PLAYER CARE

  • Our Life Skills/Personal Development Programme has evolved this season, with the appointment of Craig Watkins (Head of Academy Player Care) significantly contributing towards this.
  • Ben Mason was the recipient of the 2022 Nigel Higgs Development Award.

EDUCATION

  • All our scholars achieved higher than predicted grades in their SEPS and BTEC's education.

FOOTBALL

  • Two Academy players were called up to represented their national teams - Spike Brits (England) and Morgan Williams (Wales).
  • Despite finishing second and failing to retain our league title, the Under-18s recorded the Academy’s highest ever points tally in the EFL Youth Alliance Merit League.
  • For the first time in four seasons we sent some of our Academy age groups on European tours, where we tested ourselves against some of Europe’s most established academies.
  • The final of the Foundation Phases Dons Cup was played at Plough Lane, embedding the connection with the Club.

TALENT IDENTIFICATION AND RECRUITMENT

  • The Academy ‘monitored’ over 500 players across all age groups, and were able to cover a new record amount of games via a scouting network.
  • 23 players were identified and signed over the last 10 months.

PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT 

  • The appointment of a Physical Performance Coach specifically for our school boys will enable us to better detail individual development.

PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS

  • The introduction of data analysis within this department has enabled us to further detail our performances and future delivery.

OPERATIONS

  • The purchases of mini buses has enabled us to provide further variety within our programme.

MEDICAL

  • The Under-18s received a 38% (662 days) decrease in injury days, compared to the previous season – this is due to the introduction of certain methods.

PROFESSIONAL CONTRACTS

I am delighted to confirm that Paris Lock and Morgan Williams have both signed their professional contracts as they look to make the step up into the first-team.

Aron Sasu has also been offered a contract of the same nature. All three of the players are extremely talented individuals that I am looking forward to seeing develop over the years to come.

As we all know, the flip side of our industry is that some point players will be released. That’s not to say they don’t have potential or that we’ve made the right decision. I gain massive satisfaction when I see a player use a setback to propel themselves to future successes, whether that be in football or in other industries.

I want to wish the following players the best of luck for the future, after not receiving an offer of a professional contract at the end of their scholarships: Ibrahim Bangura, Harry Griffiths, Jola Lahan, Remi Onabanjo, Obed Yeboah.

I thank them for their contribution to our story and hope they look back at their time with the Dons fondly.

We have a saying in the Academy that when we release a player, they should be sought by other clubs. Why would we want players that no one else values?

This needs to be the level we are aspiring to achieve, therefore don’t be surprised to see these young men being offered opportunities elsewhere.

None of this would be possible without talented people who go above and beyond in their roles, so I’d like to acknowledge the Academy Management team and challenge them for the new season of taking us to the next level.

What’s next?

Victoria Athey, Simon Clark, Martin Davidson, Ben Ewing, Ben Fosuhene, Ahmed Jama, Jack Matthews, Deji Olorukoba-Oseni, Stuart Page, Josh Stepian, Craig Watkins, Nicholas Wright.


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