Nottingham Forest Under 18s head coach Gareth Holmes is excited for the future as he aims to build on a successful 2016.
The youth team secured the league title and had a good run to the fifth-round of the FA Youth Cup last season, and Holmes, who took over the reins from Jack Lester in the summer, is hoping to push on and carry on developing a talented group of players.
He said: “It has been a tremendous year. If you take the success at the end of last season with Jack in charge and the Under 18s coming through and how they have developed, whether that is out on loan or whether they were first years last season and come in as second years and done really well.
“The pleasing thing is that there are players that have filled their boots, stepped up to the challenges that it faced and been really successful this year.
“The important thing is to keep pushing. There has been a lot of success in 2016 but we can’t rest on our laurels, we have got to push on and we have got to be better next year than this year. That is the target and the benchmark we are setting.”
With the Under 18s sitting joint-top of the league on points and in the fourth-round of the FA Youth Cup, there is plenty to look forward to in 2017.
This season has also seen a lot of younger players step up in the age groups, with there being 68 appearances from schoolboy players in the Under 18s and Holmes is keen to see that continue to aid their development.
He said: “The boys are joint top of the league having had that influx of schoolboy players and that is testament to the depth of quality we have. We want to push that and develop players further, whether that us moving up to the 23s or 15s and 16s coming through.
“We want them to know that if you are good enough, you are old enough and you will get pushed and you will get stretched. When you look at the academy at the moment you know it is an exciting place to be as a player as you do get challenged and the opportunities the programme presents is a really strong one. We are confident and proud of what we do.
“We have a great relationship within the academy, I worked with Jack last season and we have similar views. It is not just that if you go to the 23s it is a totally different thing; the standards are the same and the things that are asked of them are the same so there is a real continuity right the way through the 18s and 23s so there is a same environment.
“It is just different challenges in that it is a quicker and more of a physical challenge with more tactical and technical problems to overcome. We want them to go on and progress and it has been a big challenge for some of those younger boys going up into the 23s and we hope they would go on and find their feet and they have done.
“We are firm believers in that you develop the person and then you can develop the player. If you develop that person who has that humility, courage, desire and intelligence, they are qualities that we want tin a Nottingham Forest player. Hopefully they can then go on and perform under the pressure that is asked of them and do it to the standard we want at this football club.”