PDP Lead Coach Chris Brown says it has been a positive year for the Youth Team following the conclusion of the 2018/19 season.
Dale finished in second spot in the EFL North West Youth Alliance League, reached the third round of the FA Youth Cup and have had four second-year scholars offered professional contracts.
“It’s been a positive year for us, I think,” said Brown.
“Finishing second to Wigan Athletic, who are a very good team and have had a superb year, shows we’ve done very well.
“We’ve had ups and downs within our season, performance-wise and also individually. Also, a lot of our players have been with the first team which has left us a little bit short at times, but we’ve dealt with that.
“Four of the second-years have been offered professional contracts, which is superb for the Club.
“The league campaign has been quite productive. The lads have plugged away, we’ve had some really good results and played some excellent football at times.
“From January, to where we are now, we’ve had a really big push to the end of the season, in terms of getting over the QPR result [in the FA Youth Cup], which was a really sad moment for us because of how hard we worked, but that’s football.
“The back end of the season, the lads have been excellent and we’ve had some really good quality performances which represent how we want to play as Rochdale Football Club.”
Second-years Florent Hoti, Lewis Bradley, Harrison Hopper and Fabio Tavares have been offered their first professional contracts with the Club, something Brown says it credit to everyone in the Academy.
“To get four offered out of eight is brilliant.
“Within the last three years, the Academy has produced nine players for the first team, which is a superb achievement. That includes Luke Matheson who will step in to his scholarship this summer.
“It’s credit to everyone in the Academy. It’s a collective work that’s happened from when the lads first come in.
“The pathway and the opportunity is always there. When Keith [Hill] and Chris [Beech] were here, they gave a lot of lads their first-team debuts, they were always training with the first team, and Brian [Barry-Murphy] has continued with that.
“The opportunity is always there. When the lads go up the first-team, some of the Academy boys get an opportunity to play. That was shown in our final game of the season, with four under-15s coming on for the Youth Team.
“The boys in the Academy can see that development and pathway, and that inspires them to work even harder.
“It’s the Club’s philosophy and vision to produce these young players because they see how good they are and the opportunity is great.
“I’d just like to touch on the boys that didn’t get professional contracts. Their efforts this year has been absolutely brilliant. Their development has been fantastic. They’ll definitely get fixed up somewhere else because the interest that we’ve had in them had been really good, so best of luck to them.”
Brown is also pleased with the way that Dale’s first-year scholars have settled in to life at the Club.
“Some of them have had different journeys this year. Some have played a lot of games and some haven’t.
“Some of the boys have been a bit unfortunate with injuries and also second-years playing in front of them.
“They’ve got a massive opportunity over the off-season to get themselves where they need to be for the start of next season and to progress and push on.
“Starting with the goalkeeper, Morgan Piper has been excellent. His progression and development has been superb and we’re really happy with him. The same applies to Joe Dunne and Toby Phillips.
“Musambya Kisimba, Morgan Moreland and Ben Martin have played limited minutes, but their progression in that has been superb. We know the value that they can bring and they’re very good players that will get an opportunity next year.”
The Youth Team recorded 71 goals in 26 league matches, as they finished six points clear of third place Preston North End.
“We had a team meeting in January. The lads came up with a target of scoring 80 goals in all competitions, and they surpassed that with three or four games to go, which is brilliant.
“The football we’ve played this year has been really good. We’ve been a bit lucky at times with how we’ve played because we’ve been a little bit expansive.
“The lads have tried to put in to practice what we want them to do, and they will make mistakes because they’re young lads, but they’re trying to put the elements and traits in that we want them to achieve and progress with.
“Some of the football throughout the games, at times, has been a joy to watch.
“We want the lads to be creative, be confident on the ball and play forwards positively. We want the lads to be as expressive as they can on the ball and play some really good football, because our philosophy is possession-based, fast, attacking football.
“You can see that in performances week in, week out. Whether that’s the under-18s, or going down to the under-9s, we try to implement that as much as we can.
“The coaches within the Academy emphasise and push the boys to express themselves as much as they can.”
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