With the Sky Blues Under-23s a week into their winter break, we caught up with Under-23s Head Coach Luke Tisdale to discuss their campaign so far.
City’s development side currently sit top of the Professional Development League, Northern section, eight points clear of second placed Sheffield United.
Ten wins from their opening 13 games has been a phenomenal return and firmly puts Tisdale’s side in touching distance of a place in the semi-finals.
“I think it’s been a really positive start to the season.” Tisdale said.
“That’s all down to the players and the support staff, I know I say it a lot, but they’re working hard in training and the level that they’re at in training is so high, so that’s the reason we are where we are.
“It’s no secret that we’ve used the 23s as a reserve team at times, which has had a massive benefit for the first team, we’ve seen Matty Godden score for the 23s on the Tuesday and then the winner for the first team on the Saturday.
“That’s exactly how it should be in our opinion, there’s been a massive benefit for the first team players as well as the under-23s.
“The lads have got to play with Liam Kelly for three games, which for the young players was unbelievable learning for them, so there’s been loads of good experiences for them.
“It’ll be interesting in the next six months, whether we see a couple go out on loan which will obviously weaken the side, but it will be good for their development, and we’ve got to try find a way to still be competitive in the league, but overall it’s been a brilliant start.”
One of the contrasts in fortunes for the Sky Blues Under-23s this season has been their ruthlessness in front of goal, with no other side across the two divisions scoring more than City.
32 goals have found the back of the net, and that is a stark comparison to last season, something Tisdale believes will only help his sides development in their future.
“I heard one of the England staff say it’s difficult to produce players in a losing environment, not impossible, but difficult, but we make no bones about challenging the players to win and finding a way to win because that’s what football’s all about.
“We’ve never won a game this season by sacrificing our philosophy and the way we want to play, the games we’ve won, we’ve done it our way, adapting at times and changing slightly, but we’ve never once come away from it, which is pleasing.
“We’ll lose a couple games by sticking to the philosophy, but like I say last season was the opposite of this year, we had loads of players go out on loan, that made it really difficult for us, we were missing Eccles, Drysdale, and a few others, but then in the next sixth months because of covid and people getting recalled we were able to finish the season strongly.”
As Tisdale mentioned, last season saw the likes of Jack Burroughs, Josh Eccles and Declan Drysdale depart on loan.
This season City already have Will Bapaga, Danny Cashman, Tom Billson and Burroughs again out on loan and Tisdale is expecting more of his group to follow in the second half of the season.
“There’s definitely players that would benefit from a loan, absolutely, whether they need to or not is a difficult one, you can only get in the manager’s team if you’re inside the building which is what we’re trying to do, I’m sure there will be a few, but it’s what they do on their loan and after it that is more important.
“It’s very difficult to go out on loan and sometimes it’s not what they expect it to be. You’ve seen Will Bapaga on loan at Grimsby, he’s had some massive highs and lows in his first six months, he’s gone in played a couple games, scored and assisted, and then he’s out the team for four weeks as well.”
Within the first team camp, the Under-23s have seen some memorable moments, with the likes of Ryan Howley and Josh Reid being handed debuts in the Carabao Cup.
“Josh Reid got his debut against Northampton with Ryan Howley as well, and Fabio Tavares has broken into that first team training group which is what we spoke about in our goal-setting meetings.
“We said two or three years ago, you’ve got to get in the first team, but with the evolution of the first team and how fast it’s been, we can’t say that anymore, it’s now a target to get yourself in the training group, and Fabio’s done that.
“A couple of lads have been away on international camps, Jay McGrath, Ryan Howley, so there’s been loads of positives.”
Now, with City’s next game against Sheffield Wednesday coming on January 10th, Tisdale and his group will begin to set their aims for the next six months.
“We’ll have a goal-setting meeting in January, when the players come back from their break, and we’ll sit down and come up with a points target and we’ll try and tick those off.
“Also, it depends on which players are in the building and we might find it more difficult in the next six months, but we absolutely want to win the league and that would take us into the semi-finals, that’s the target, along with trying to get some debuts.”