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Spooner - The Under-18s have made good progress this season

As the season went on, results and performances improved and several youngsters saw their displays earn them a promotion into the Under-23s squad.  
“I definitely think it's been a season of progress,” said Spooner. “You can probably divide the season into thirds. 
“We started off well but drew a considerable amount of games when we had created numerous chances, but were unable to finish them off. 
“Then we hit a period where we had so many injuries like I'd never known before. You expect your muscular pulls and things like that, but we're talking long-term injuries, such as cruciates, torn hamstrings and ankle ligaments, so that has an impact no matter what level you play at.
“But our form from Christmas onwards would probably be in the top three in the league."
Spooner says although the football side of the boys' development is of primary importance, he and his staff also look to help them mature as individuals. 
“Several of the boys have taken their opportunities and really developed," he continued. 
"Mine and Karl Hooper's (Professional Development Coach, pictured top with Spooner) roles as youth coaches isn't just about developing the players technically and tactically, it's also about helping them develop socially and psychologically as well. 
"I think a lot of the players have shown a greater degree of maturity both as footballers and as individuals. 
"Their coping mechanisms have improved and their general mindset, approach and desire to be footballers has improved considerably both on and off the pitch. They've really developed physically and have shown a real sense of self-discipline. 
“Our stats also show that we had 39 under-16 appearances, two under-15 and one under-14 appearance. That's quite significant and hopefully the players will be better for that next season.
“We've also seen second years’ step-up to the Under-23s programme and play quite consistently and do well like Odin Bailey (pictured below) and at the older age group we’ve had former Academy players Josh Dacres-Cogley and Corey O’Keeffe get in and around the First Team which is obviously very pleasing.”
Spooner says he is hoping for a similar level of progress amongst next season’s intake, but admits it is never an exact science as to who will break through and when.
“I’m reasonably confident with next year's group because there's a good balance. The great thing about working with young players is that they're unpredictable and develop at different rates," he said.
 
“No two players’ careers are linear, because they do peak and trough at different levels and at different times during the season. I always say to the players it's not where you are now it's where you're going to be two years down the line. 
“Looking at somebody like Beryly Lubala he came to us from Sunday League football and we told him that the chance of playing lots of games in the first year was minimal but if he put the work in he could give himself a real chance in the second year because of the qualities that he already had. 
"Now he's signed a second-year pro-contract and that just goes to show that it's down to the players. We can give them the opportunities and our coaching input but ultimately it's a partnership they have to buy into and put the work into as well."

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