Under-18s Coach Simon Wiles spoke to the club after his side performed valiantly in their FA Youth Cup tie against Premier League side Liverpool at the weekend.
His side managed to reach the third round of the competition for the third year in a row, which was a brilliant achievement for the group of players and staff to reach and Wiles knows how important the competition is to the club as a whole.
“It’s been a brilliant experience, not just for the players, but for the whole club. When we get the draw in the first round, we are always looking at how we can progress in the competition,” said the Under-18s coach.
“For a club like our in the Category Three programme, we set our ambitions on the third round, and the fact that we’ve done that for three years on the run, it’s a remarkable achievement and one hopefully we can build on next year as well.
“We always have that ambition to get there and having Watford two years ago, Crystal Palace last season and to go on and get Liverpool this has proved to be our biggest challenge in the competition and one that we won’t forget, and I thought the players showed a good account of themselves.
The aim for the Academy each year is to progress in the Youth Cup as they know how important it is for the players’ development and it will also be something they will always look back on in their careers.
Wiles said: “Every experience in the Youth Cup is a major night in the player’s scholarship journeys and it’s one that they all look forward to. The media get involved with the players a bit more which is fantastic, so they all know the importance of it and just the whole experience of being in the Youth Cup for the players and the staff is huge.
“The main thing is making sure we do get through the opening rounds so the group have a chance to play a massive club in the third round. Over the last three years, we’ve I feel we’ve progressed well, and long may that continue.
“It’s been a tough season for us, and we’ve all set our sights on having a good cup run as that would enable some other players to come back and be part of it, due to the number of injuries, and we’ve done that.
“We virtually have all our squad fit and available for Liverpool which was brilliant. It rings a togetherness to the group and that cohesion shows how good they are as a group of lads as they embedded it into the match day.”
The coach who guided his side to the North West Youth Alliance title last season, and a second-place finish the year before, is ecstatic at the fact that so many of his graduates have made it into the first team and are doing well.
“It’s amazing to see all of the players we’ve coached play in the first team, that’s why we are in the job. It’s great that we’ve got league and cup campaigns that we can all look forward to, but the job is judged on how many players we can get through and what we can do for each of their individual journeys to give them the best chance at success in their careers,” Wiles added.
“Seeing the number of Academy graduates in the first team at the moment, and in the matchday squads, couldn’t make us any prouder. As a group of staff, and as a club, we are proud to see that the pathway is very clear here and we’ve just got to make sure that we’ve got the next group ready to kick on into the first team once again.”