The old adage that ‘it’s a game of two halves’ is a much used phrase and there’s no better way to describe the first half of our U21’s season in the Cheshire FA U21’s Premier Football League.
After beginning the season with an unbeaten run in both league and cup (5 wins & 1 draw) we travelled to Irlam (arguably the league’s most successful and established club) in the hope of causing an upset but instead a 5-0 defeat brought the early season promise crashing down to Earth.
Our aim with the U21’s is to develop individuals into players capable of stepping into the first team but also challenging them to compete for trophies.
Despite an inconsistent fixture list, our poor run of results and players at an age where commitments other than football begin to take priority the group has trained well and applied themselves to learning and developing while showing a resilience, determination and character which gives them a chance to turn results around and move forward.
After the opening four league fixtures we sat top of the table with 10 points, two months later we sit 5th having added just 1 point in 6 matches, however, there have been many positive signs within those matches that individuals are growing in stature and beginning to improve their ‘game understanding’.
It’s no secret that our group is a young group and competing against clubs utilising their U21’s as their Reserves with some fielding first team players on a regular basis. Other clubs are private Academy teams who train many times per week which also brings obvious benefits compared to our own options.
Results don’t always tell the whole truth about performances. It’s fair to say that we’re playing a style of football which is attractive and expansive which takes guts and skill but also confidence, especially through an extended run of poor results and against players both older and physically stronger than yourselves.
We do have standout performers with an eye on a first team place such as Sam Crick (Captain), Luke Birtwistle and Scott Helsby who all continue to impress week-after-week while Will Hartley also catches the eye.
The season is far from over for us. We still have a place in the League Cup plus our original target of surpassing last season’s league points haul (26) to aim for. We kick 2017 off with the visit of West Kirby on Friday 6th January followed by a trip to Ashville in the Cup the following Sunday (8th January).
With the New Year comes new optimism. This group has shown what it can do when in confident mood and the aim in the after the festive break is to regain that confidence and turn performances into results. There may also be opportunities for some of our talented U18’s to add their talent to the mix which is an exciting prospect for both myself and the club.
Happy New Year.