Nottingham Forest Under 23s head coach Jack Lester feels continuity is key to success within the academy as he aims to build on a fruitful 2016.
Lester started his role in the summer having been head coach of the Under 18s, and he believes having the relationships between the youth teams through to the first-team is crucial for player development.
He said: “I enjoyed the team I was part of last year, and the strength of the continuity between the two groups. I knew what Gareth [Holmes] wanted, he knew what I wanted and Jake [Wigley] had been up with the Under 21s already so there was a real clear strand of values and non-negotiables and what we were about as an academy which is excellent.
“We made the decision in the summer to push players up and a lot of players jumped into the first-team squad quite early from the 23s which was fantastic. We decided to move some out to get first-team football in the Conference and League One and Two, and we pushed up some of the stronger 18s players and that has worked really well.
“They have been stretched at times with a couple of games that have been difficult, but we knew that was going to be the case and how it was going to be and it has given a chance for the good Under 15s and 16s to play in the 18s. It has been really positive as you don’t always know it is going to work out so well but we are delighted with the progression we are seeing in the players.”
Lester said that the fact the younger players can see others making the step-up to the first-team is crucial and it has given other players the opportunity to seize responsibility.
He said: “The younger lads have done really well. They have not looked out of place and we are proud of how they have done.
“The 18s who remained in that group who won the league last season have had new challenges as they have had to become the leaders very quickly and help the younger lads come through, so for the 18s who have played in that group a lot they have been impressive in how they have pulled that team together as well.
“For the 23s we have five or six pros playing and they have had to manage the 18s coming into the group as well. It helps to produce some good characters and leaders as they have had to become that.
“Next year we are looking for more of the same in terms of performances but the lads are at a different level to what they were at the start of the season. They have made big strides this year and it is looking at what is the next thing and they need to become first-team players and we need to really get into them in the New Year and see what developments they can do.
“The lads know that when you are trying to sell the dream of going up to the first-team and none of the others are doing it, it is hard to see it but when you see month-on-month that players are getting chances then they know it is there for them if they want it. This group of players are so talented so there will be opportunities for them.”