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Club News

Sean's Programme Notes - Millwall

3 November 2012

I would first of all like to welcome the players, staff and supporters of Millwall for this afternoonís npower Championship game at The City Ground.

Much gets made of the importance of football clubs having good youth set-ups.

At a time when British football is a multibillion pound multinational sport, there remains something endearingly romantic about a local lad pulling on the shirt of his hometown club.

Fans value it because it gives them a genuine grassroots affiliation with their club. Meanwhile a youth set-up can be invaluable in a club, maintaining their links with the community and encouraging the next generation of supporters, if not unearthing a star.

In an industry where money talks ever more loudly, there's always the danger that Academies become token gestures; nice-to-haves but without serving any real purpose for that club, whether that be producing a stream of first team players, saleable assets or simply developing young British talent.

But you only have to look at the faith a club like Manchester United continues to have in bringing young players through to recognise that while everyone knows a team has to win football matches, there are ways to find a productive, sustainable balance between purchasing and nurturing talent for the club's long-term benefit.

Last week saw the return of John Pemberton to Forest, a move that has been welcomed by staff and supporters alike. John's very well respected in the game and his beliefs on how football should be played and the development of players' game intelligence fits perfectly with the ethos we are trying to foster throughout the club.

With the introduction of the new Under 21s League this season, John will provide the link between the work Nick Marshall with Gary Brazil and Steve Chettle are doing with the Academy and Under 18s and the first team squad.

You can have the most technically gifted boys in the world but it takes a very special young player, with the right mental and physical attributes, to be able to take the step immediately from youth to first team football at Championship or Premier League level.

The Under 21s League gives young players a chance to play in more regular competitive age-group matches but at some point the players have to go and play for real points. This means either loaning a player out or identifying that he may be ready to come into the first team squad. It will be John's responsibility, with the Academy and first team coaching staff, to make those calls on a player's progress.

Manchester United have got an unbelievable record in judging the right time to introduce a young player into their first team fold. Invariably the majority of their top young players have spent time on loan at lower league clubs. It is a gradual, calculated process. Scott Wootton, who was here for a short time last season, is the latest young United player to be drip-fed into their first team squad.

Sometimes, due to an injury crisis or a boy developing more rapidly than anticipated, young players can get an early opportunity. In those circumstances you have to trust the processes they have been exposed to every day in training to stand them in good stead and leave them feeling supported and confident to be able to deliver a performance.

John has a long association with this club and an impressive record in helping players through to the first team. His return in another piece of the jigsaw in ensuring the way we want to do things is aligned from top to bottom.

We have experienced first-hand the value supporters place on homegrown players with the return of Jermaine Jenas to the club over the past month.

From the outset Jermaine's loan was a two-way thing. It gave us the chance to have a look at him and see where he was fitness-wise on his continued comeback from a serious Achilles injury, while he had an opportunity to have a look at the way we do things and see if we could help him get back playing regularly to the peak of his undoubted ability.

There was no pressure from Spurs for us to play Jermaine but for the arrangement to work both parties had to be honest with each other. And while Jermaine's class has never been in question, we also had to ensure that by bringing in a 'big name' we didn't upset the balance in the dressing room.

I'm sure Jermaine's been itching to play more but to his credit his attitude in training has been exemplary and he's proving to be an asset for us not only on match days but also on the training pitch, where his experience and opinion can be very valuable. He has fitted in well with the group and I'm pleased we've been able to extend his stay.

Seven points and nine goals from our last three games against leaders Cardiff, promotion-chasing Blackpool and a well-drilled Barnsley side was a very pleasing return. In all three games players coming off the bench made pivotal contributions. The strength in depth of the squad and ensuring everyone continues to feel involved and a valued part of things is only going to get more critical as the season goes on.

We get so much information about the opposition when preparing for a game you have to be able to identify what the most meaningful stats are and how you bring those on to the training pitch to produce a game plan that gives you the best chance of negating your opponent's main threats while still allowing you to play to your own strengths.

Stats don't give you all the answers but they do give you a factual starting point - not just people's perceptions - from which to begin your preparations. You ignore this data at your peril. We feel we made the most of the information we had on our last three opponents and got our just rewards with three good performances and the points to show for them.

Please keep supporting your local team.

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