Match action resumes for our development squad after the festive break as Joe Edwards’s side host Blackburn Rovers at Aldershot this Saturday lunchtime in Premier League 2.
The Blues ended 2018 fifth in the table, trailing the leaders Everton by four points, and they will be looking to close the gap on the Toffees with the first match of game week 14. Our youngsters are seven points better off than this stage last season, have twice as many league wins and have scored 10 more goals, all of which Edwards puts down to a more stable and cohesive group of players.
‘There’s no right or wrong way of doing things in development,’ explains our development squad manager as we look ahead to the first game of the calendar year.
‘Last season we had a lot of players training with the first team every day and then jumping in and out of our programme, which was good for those individuals but did make it challenging at times for us to prepare for games and build a team. This season we have a much more settled group so we can work every day on improving our way of playing and that’s been reflected in our first half of the season.
'The players carry out the team ethic every day in how they train and work off the pitch - they’re a fantastic group of boys who work hard and stick together, which is just as important as talent.'
— Joe Edwards
‘I think that aspect is what we’ve added to the group this season and it’s a big part of why we have more points, more wins and more goals than at this time last season, even with a younger group.’
Reflections at the midway point of the campaign were largely positive, with the team looking above them with optimism rather than below with trepidation in PL2 and through to the last-16 in the Checkatrade Trophy. They will face Peterborough United at Stamford Bridge this Wednesday 9 January and tickets are still available to purchase now priced at just £5 for adults and £3 for concessions.
However, there is always room for improvement and Edwards believes his side must demonstrate their strengths more regularly in order to close the gap at the top of the league.
|2||Derby County PL2||13||7||2||4||19||12||7||23|
|3||Brighton and Hove Albion PL2||13||6||4||3||24||16||8||22|
|4||Leicester City PL2||13||6||3||4||18||12||6||21|
‘The one thing we really want to build on now is our consistency, which can be a common trait that young players struggle with,’ he continues. ‘Our home form compared to our away form is a perfect example of that because we won five in a row away but just couldn’t get three points at home.
‘We want to reach a position where we’re playing well as a team and putting in solid performances week in, week out, but also match that up with results and put together a run of four or five wins in a row. That’s the sign of a really good team.’
A three-week period without fixtures over the festive season allowed Edwards the opportunity to give his young players a break away from their demanding training schedule and he feels the time away has been vital in recharging both physically and mentally.
‘We had a similar break last year at Christmas and then went on a fantastic run when we came back so we’re confident in the programme from a physical point of view,’ he goes on. ‘One of our first games back then was Portsmouth away in the Checkatrade Trophy, which was incredibly tough in terms of the physical demands, but we came through and won the game in the 96th minute.
‘We value a little break at this time of year because it gives the boys a chance to freshen up and spend some time with their families, which they don’t get to do very often. We came back for pre-season on the first day of July so it’s a long slog through to December and you need to be able to recharge the batteries a little bit.
‘We give them programmes to follow while they’re away and monitoring devices so we can track exactly what they’re doing so of course it’s not a complete shutdown. The lads look sharp and training has been lively in the last few days so it seems to have worked well and now we’re looking forward to getting back out on the pitch.’
Kick-off at Aldershot Town is 12noon and supporters wishing to attend can purchase tickets on the gate priced at £3 for adults and £1 for concessions.