Nottingham Forest Under 18s head coach Gareth Holmes feels the club’s culture of giving youth a chance will lead to plenty of opportunities for his young stars.
This year’s crop of Under 18 players are enjoying a successful start to the campaign, following in the footsteps of last year’s side which won the Professional Development League and reached the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup before losing to Liverpool.
They were also crowned Under 19 Team of the Year at the Nottingham Sports Awards and Holmes feels the young players are always striving for better.
He said: “I think the success is testament to the boys’ dedication and their ability to take on information. We have had a lot of chopping and changing with boys going up to the first team or the Under 23s and that has given a tremendous opportunity for some of the boys to step into this Under 18s group.
“I think it shows the culture at the football club within the academy that although the personnel may change, the quality of performance hasn’t. We want to maintain that. Obviously we are always striving for better and the continuity of the performance has been there and long may it continue.
“We want to be able to produce players for the first team and to continually do that. When you look at the players who have gone up to the Under 23s and the first team, that is the result of a tremendous amount of work on and off the field.”
A number of players have made the step up to play in older age groups in recent weeks, with the likes of Toby Edser, Anel Ahmedhodzic and Joe Worrall all being involved with the first team, which is a demonstration of the work going on at the Nigel Doughty Academy as the Under 18s won 3-1 at Barnsley on Saturday with a group of younger players.
Holmes added: “We are endeavouring to achieve more success of getting players into the first team and Under 23s and for the Youth Development Phase, more Under 16s into the Under 18s and that was testament to the result on Saturday when we had two Under 15s and five Under 16s. Hopefully the quality of the performances doesn’t dip even though the change of players does.”
Holmes made the step up to be Under 18s head coach this season after Jack Lester took over the Under 23 side, and he said it is a “tremendous privilege” to take on the role.
He said: “It was great to work with Jack last season and to work with Jake Wigley this season. Both myself and Jack saw it last season as a partnership and that is the way we are looking at it this season.
“It is not a lead and an assistant, it is a partnership where we can throw ideas around and debate things and hopefully get to the position where we are serving the players in the best possible manner. The staff have been excellent in supporting me as I stepped up and I am really grateful for the support they have given me.
“It is important that we share the achievements with the whole of the academy as it is a massive team effort. It is not just the 18s or 23s, even though they get the most publicity. It is a tremendous amount of work that is going on with Lee Moran at the foundation stage and Tom Mallinson at the YDP stage and the rest of the staff involved in those phases.
“There is a lot of work going on prior to this that allows us to get this success. We feel that we are in a position with the football club in the academy that we have a strong culture and strong outline of what we want to achieve, so that when boys do move up we have others to fill in the void. I think that has been shown this season that we do have younger boys to move up and still be pushing and producing the performances we expect.”
The Under 18s are in action again on Saturday, making the trip to Sheffield United knowing that a victory would mean they would overtake their opponents at the top of the table.
Holmes said: “When we go into these games we want to win as we are competitive people, but the important thing is whether the players developing and playing in a way that is befitting to this football club. Whether we are seeing developments and improvements that are an inkling to the future and a glimpse into what they could be and what we would like them to be.”