Head of youth on league and cup win
Earlier today we spoke to Head of Youth Tom Curtis following the youth team’s fantastic league and cup double.
Our U18s side claimed the League title on Saturday by beating Exeter and then just days later they triumphed over Carlisle to win the Youth Alliance Cup.
Tom said: “I am really proud of Alan Walsh and the team.
“The two victories were wins for all the Academy players and coaches who have all had an impact on the U18 team and their development.
“We have all worked hard on getting a system and values into place where they can learn how to win.
“When I joined the club Alan and I sat down and discussed where things were and we set our goals high.”
The first trophy came on Saturday after Rovers saw off Exeter in the final game of the league season.
Tom said: “We played a really good Exeter side who have really improved over the season. It was a tight game that could have gone either way in the first half.
“They started brightly, but we improved as the game went on and scored our three goals early in the second half.
“It was great to be able to play at the Memorial Stadium, on a much better playing surface than the previous game against Oxford.
“Physically the boys were very tired, but they showed their professionalism and they deserved the win and the title.
“They have worked very hard with Alan Walsh and the other coaches throughout the season.
“The standard of the league is good and has improved throughout the season as clubs have invested and built their Academies.
“It is fantastic to win the league, as I don’t think it is something the club has done before.
“Winning any league shows a consistency of performance and that is really important.
“We are in the business of making these players into professionals, and to be a professional you have to show that consistency.”
The cup final followed just a few days later, and it was a big challenge to get the players ready for another tough game.
Tom said: “We have had difficulty getting them both physically and mentally prepared, as we have had a lot of games to play as there were so many called off around Christmas.
“It has been a challenge, but that is all part of the learning process and good for their development.
“We started off in a regional league for the cup, and we won that and got to play away at Portsmouth, which was a very difficult game, but we managed to sneak through.
“We then played Watford, who historically have a good youth department which progresses players through to the first team.
“The performance of the players last night showed how far we have come as we played really well against a really good team.
“The cup final was a challenge in terms of geography, and we would have liked the game to be at home, but that is something else that is good for development.
“We were very grateful to the Supporters Club who helped us finance the trip, travel up the day before and prepare well.
“The boys showed elements of tiredness, but the performance was about winning the game as no one wants to lose a cup final.
“The lads acquitted themselves well and showed a fantastic togetherness, which has been one of our main strengths this season.”
And despite success in both the league and cup, the most important thing for Tom and his coaching team is getting young players into the first team squad.
Tom said: “Winning at U18 level is great, but our long term goal is to get these players out playing for the first team.
“This season has been great as Tom Lockyer has been consistently in and around the first team squad, and a number of other players have also been involved.
“We hope that next year we will have the opportunity to get even more of the youth players in and around the first team – that is our main aim, and hopefully with the support of the Board and the manager we can achieve that.
“It is a long term project, and Edward Ware and the rest of the board have been very supportive with their resources.”