CCFC Academy Manager gives his assessment on a positive season for the Sky Blues Academy...
Coventry City Academy Manager Richard Stevens has praised the 2015/16 season as a ‘progressive’ year for the Sky Blues production line.
It’s been a busy year for the Sky Blues Academy which many changes and additions amongst the staff and the players of all age groups.
Whilst the FA Youth Cup and Under-18s grab the headlines, the Academy’s key to success is it’s people power and Stevens has explained some of the changes and additions to the staff which should improve the future.
Stevens started: "It's been another progressive season for the Academy. All the aims we set out at the start of the year have been achieved and even surpassed.
"The Academy is important to the club and it's important to have good staff around me. Scott Curry was previously at the Academy and went to Wolves. He has since returned here as the Head of Recruitment and has already set about reshaping our recruitment network.
"Scott has already been really busy forming links with local teams and getting out and about in Coventry and Warwickshire. At the end of the day, trying to get boys from the local area into the club is the brief.
"Jackson Moody joined the club from Swansea as the U5-U11 lead coach and has been excellent ever since he walked into the Academy. He's brought fresh ideas to the table and the children are really enjoying the sessions at that young age."
The Sky Blues Academy was pushed into the mainstream local news during the season after their progression in the FA Youth Cup. City progressed to the fifth round to face Premier League giants Arsenal at the Ricoh Arena where City were beaten on penalties after Bassala Sambou’s last-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw.
Despite the spot-kick defeat, Stevens only has fondness for the Youth Cup run.
"Clubs always go crazy for the Youth Cup but in my nine seasons with the club, we've done ok and had some good results over the years,” he remembers.
"We did well last season and eventually went out to Manchester City, but I think we learnt from that. This season, we just captured the magic of the competition.
"We had some tough games right through the rounds. Started with Walsall and then played Crewe Alexandra, Stoke City and Charlton; all difficult tests for the boys which they came through.
"Of course, that led to Arsenal at the Ricoh Arena which was a special occasion and can only bring a smile to the face. It was a magical evening with over 2000 supporters in the stadium cheering on the boys.
"We took them all the way to penalties and it was an excellent effort. It doesn't feel like a defeat looking back on it and it is a night we should all be proud of as a football club."
On the back of the FA Youth Cup run and another great season in the league for Jason Farndon’s Under-18s side, six players were offered professional terms. Corey Addai, Darragh Leahy, Callum Maycock, Jordan Shipley, Bassala Sambou and Jacob Whitmore were all offered, and Stevens says that is a great achievement for the staff.
"It's a great achievement for us. To have six offered professional terms here is a great for the Academy and the local area who will be represented properly by their football club,” Stevens says.
"Jason Farndon, Andy Hemming and Matthew Ellis do a fantastic job with the Under-18s and it's great for them as well. The players now need to make sure the hard work continues going into the summer.
"They'll have to be around it during pre-season and work hard to catch the manager's eye. The main focus for them is Under-21s but if they can progress, they might just succeed that.”