Mansfield Town manager David Flitcroft is delighted with the physical shape of the club’s youth team players as they enter the first full season of trying to bring them through to first team level.
Unlike previous boss Steve Evans, Flitcroft is keen on getting a conveyor belt of local talent making the first team and, having already promoted several to the first team squad in the summer, he is now casting his eye over the new intakes.
“He puts a massive emphasis on youth. He knows all of the U18 players, he knows all of the U21 players,” said academy manager John Dempster.
“Both the gaffer and Futch (assistant Ben Futcher) have been complimentary about the players’ physiques. They are quite robust which is uncommon in academy players.
“They are pleased with intensity levels though when they train with the first team they are being pushed to maximum levels.
“We try to mirror the intensity of the first team training and the formations.”
Dempster said the first team involvement was hugely encouraging to the younger players.
“It has a ripple effect and it goes all the way down to the lower age groups that we run,” he said.
“People understand how hard it is to become a professional footballer and want to see a pathway.
“The boys that can step up with the right ability and attitude have got that opportunity, though it’s probably tougher than ever to go all the way through to a first team debut.
“The boys that fall short will hopefully have learned enough to go into non-League and earn a few quid elsewhere.”
But Dempster knows first team standards are rising and it will be ever harder for youngsters to make it.
“It is brilliant for me and the academy staff. The boys that have made the step up in and around the first team have got a long way to go,” he said.
“But the experience they are getting training alongside senior pros on a day to day basis is something we can’t actually give them.
“The link between the academy and the first team has been brilliant. We can’t really ask for much more.
“Watching the first team in pre-season and the start of the new campaign, those young players are really going to have to step up as the standards have gone up.
“The performance against Accrington last week was exceptional and it really hit home that we have got a lot of hard work to do.”
On his own progress in coaching, he added: “Time has flown. I have learned no end from a coaching point of view and also off the field.
“My staff have been key in how the academy has developed – the club have made some very wise appointments.”
On the season, so far he said: “It’s been a bit of a mixed bag. We had a good pre-season and played some different games from academies to non-League clubs.
“So far we’ve gone draw, win, loss so we have been a little bit inconsistent in our first three games, but overall I have been really pleased with the players.
“We have some good individuals and I am hoping we can improve them as a team now so they can learn their roles and responsibilities within that.”