John Ward speaks about the youth team ahead of final
Rovers boss John Ward today spoke of his pride in the club’s youth team and confirmed that he, along with Development Coach Marcus Stewart will be at Brunton Park this evening to see the team take on Carlisle United in the Youth Alliance National Cup Final.
“They have had a fantastic time of it,” said Ward, adding; “and one of my own disappointments since arriving here is that I haven’t had that much time to go and support them, or to watch them.
“It’s unfortunate that we don’t train together at present, and it would be nice if we could correct that situation. However the side has done really well and a great deal of credit for that should go to the coaching staff.
“I know how tough they have had it this season as they have often struggled to get somewhere to train given all of the bad weather we have experienced.
“However they have stuck in there and registered some terrific victories. They have won their league and beat Watford, a team renowned for producing players, in the Southern Area Final of the League Cup.
“Now they face Carlisle in the National Final, and the Brunton Park outfit also has a good reputation of producing good young players.
“That means that we are on a par with some of the best sides around, at this level, at this moment in time and I will be watching them on tonight and, for the first time, will be giving them my support.”
The side clinched the league Title last Saturday, against Exeter City, without influential defender/midfielder Tom Lockyer, who was on duty with the first team. However the youngster has travelled to Carlisle with his fellow scholars and will almost certainly be involved tonight.
“I have needed him with the first team, but he will be at Carlisle this evening. It’s great that we have 17 and 18 year olds pushing for a first team spot, because as well as Tom we have Alefe Santos who has been around the first team this season.
“Behind the second year scholars we have another good crop of youngsters coming through. That’s not just at U-18 level, though, because there is a good group coming on behind them.
“In 12 months’ time we hope to be seeing one or two good players there and we think the next two years should see some ‘home grown’ professionals in our first team.”
It seems we are returning to the situation Ward found himself in during his first managerial spell at the club.
“In the three years I was here before, we had seven or eight youngsters come through into the first team and it was something we were very proud of.
“Tony Gill, Steve Cross, Dennis Booth and I were all full badge coaches 20 years ago, and it was a real boost to the club to have so many coaches with that qualification. Right the way through the four of us were very strong and Dennis and I would go and watch the youngsters every Monday. I should also mention Roy Dolling, of course, who was a tremendous help and who always wanted to see young local players make it through to the first team.
“It was a very close knit football club then, and the coaching was excellent. If we can emulate that, or at least get close to it and produce players over the next few years, it would be fantastic for the fans and players themselves.”
Whether or not they complete a league and cup double tonight, the youngsters will be introduced to Rovers supporters on Saturday, when the first team entertain Accrington Stanley.
“We will be introducing them to the crowd at half time on Saturday and they deserve that, whatever happens at Carlisle
“We need to show our fans what the whole football club is about, and what it’s doing, and we will get them on the pitch and hope that our supporters will show their appreciation and that the players can enjoy the occasion.”