From the Academy

Hello everyone, 

It’s been a little while since I last had the chance to update everyone on the goings on at the Academy. 

Over the international break a squad of U17s competed in an international tournament out in Abu Dhabi and I’m pleased to report that they performed admirably. 

They returned safe and sound from an outstanding experience. From three games, they won one, drew one, lost one against good opposition from all over the world - one team from Japan, another from Spain and the third was the host club Al Ain FC. 

We sent a very young team because our duty at the Academy is to give them new tests and experiences so they can learn and develop - particularly the experience of travelling abroad, which for a lot of the players was new. 

I was speaking to James Rowe, our Assistant Academy Manager who took the boys out there. He was very impressed by the performances and also by the way the players conducted themselves throughout.

A lot of the younger players really established themselves which is clearly a big positive. As a result, participation in this tournament is something we would very much like to do next year. 

Another positive for everyone at the Academy is the new that our promising central defender Manny Onariase has signed a professional contract with club. The fact that he was previously only on a schoolboy contract, rather than a scholarship, just goes to show how hard he’s been working over the course of the season. 

It is a fantastic achievement for him and a proud day for everyone who knows him. Of course, it’s a proud moment for everyone at the Academy and it is a sign that we are going in the right direction.

Manny was on the bench for the first team at Arsenal last month and now, like Reece Oxford and Reece Burke, he needs to push on and try and get into the first-team squad on a regular basis. 

It’s a hugely difficult task, because there are some very good players ahead of him, but he has a chance and we’ll continue to do everything we can to help him become the player we know he can be. It’s a real positive for him personally, and he deserves it with the effort and hard work he puts in. 

Finally, our U21s have entered the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens tournament which kicks-off at the end of May. We were asked to participate which is nice.

I’ve been to the tournament before when I was at Birmingham City, so I know a little bit about it. It’s a very fast, physically demanding seven-a-side tournament played in challenging conditions and presents a different type of experience. It’s a nice thing for us to be involved in at the end of the season. 

There are some good teams involved, Ajax, Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Leicester City among others. It’s a real challenge for them. As its seven-a-side we’ll be taking mainly attacking players. Just like the Abu Dhabi trip, we’re hoping for another positive experience.

In the shorter term, our U21s and U18s have fixtures this week, where we hope our young players will continue their development by producing impressive individual and collective performances.

Terry Westley
Academy Manager