Fleetwood Town's Under-21s coach Matt Lawlor has spoken to us ahead of Tuesday night's pre-season match away at non-league side Lancaster City.
Lawlor's side have been back in pre-season for four weeks now, and have had a mixture of fixture in the off-season to ensure the group are in the best shape as possible ahead of the new Category Two football calendar.
With a 2-2 draw on Friday afternoon against Category One side Stoke City at Poolfoot Farm, Lawlor was impressed with the first half performance, but know there's much more to come from this side
Here's what he had to say on pre-season, his move to the Under-21s and the match against Lancaster City:
On pre-season so far...
“It has been a great start to pre-season. As we group, we are progressing and we’ve had some tough test with Rangers, then Spennymoor – who were more senior opposition for us, and then more teams in the Under-21s programme like Stoke City who we played last week.
“Overall, very pleasing, especially with a fairly new group after a big turnover in the summer and it’s about them all understanding their roles and understanding how we want to play going forward in the new season.
“It can be difficult to gel the group together, but as people may know the reason why Club’s have an Under-21s programme is to ultimately support the first team, bringing players in such as Maleace Asamoah – who has done so well in making the jump to the first team squad.
"So getting all these people together can be hard as some train with the first team, then back with us, but it’s all part of their development and with our new programme going to Category Two, so it will be more fluid and it’s an exciting challenge for us coaches.
On the development of the players...
“It’s whether you are winning over development for development over winning, but for me my job role has been made clear as daylight and that is to get people in and ready for first team football.
“Providing players for the first team is key, and from the people at the top down to the coaches in the first team, they’ve set us goals and now it’s for us and the players to work hard and get ready for players to make an impact on the pitch at Highbury or wherever they’ll be playing.
“We’ve got objects to make Premier League players, through the first team or through sales within our Academy. With the successes that we've had, we’ve challenged the players this year as we want to be competitive in the league programme and that can only help them put a stamp on the campaign and keep them in good stead and showcase to the gaffer what they’re about to hopefully get that experience within the first team environment.
“With two weeks now until our season officially starts, there’s limited time to get the group where we want to be, but as I said, it’s an exciting time for us all here at the Club.”
On his move to the Under-21s and the restructure of the Academy...
“I have really enjoyed this new role. It has been a quick change as I was Head of Coaching last year from the Under-9s to the Under-21s and then did that role alongside working with the Under-18s and with Stephen Crainey going to Wigan Athletic, there was an opportunity for someone to make the role their own and that’s what I have done.
“We’ve restructured the role this season, so now I am Head of Personal Development Phase and it’s to make the best decision for the Under-18s and Under-21s and push them onto the first team. Working with Steven Whittaker and Scott Brown, it has been very good for me to learn from those two who I can only see them working at the top one day.
“It’s key to have a relationship. I speak to both Scott and Steven daily and it’s so important you have that communication and relationship, because without it, there are hurdles and players have enough of those in their career so having that relationship is key.
“I understand my job is to support them and the first team, but then they know from above that my job is to supply them with players who as I said before can impact on a matchday, and enhance that environment. We are one of the smallest EFL clubs as it stands, and we punch above our weight, and having that controlled environment can only help us as a Club."
On Tuesday's game away at Lancaster City...
“The game against Lancaster City will challenge the players in a more physical manner than Friday against Stoke. They will be more direct, and they have players who have played over 200 league appearances for Macclesfield in the past, so they know the dark arts of the game.
“We talked about development, and the whole round is key to players, so you need to learn to play against different styles of play whilst being exposed to that and learning there and then on the field of play.
“For example, MK Dons wanted to just play and play, where a team like Sheffield Wednesday, you see them mix it up and if players can come up against this at a young age, it can only set them up to develop on and off the pitch.
“It will be physical tomorrow, but it’s important that we give the players a mixed programme to make them a better footballers during their time with us at Fleetwood Town."
Would you like to get involved in supporting Fleetwood Town’s future stars? We now have a range of sponsorship opportunities available within our Academy for the 2023/24 season.