Nottingham Forest Under 18s head coach Gareth Holmes says the award given to the team at last night’s Nottingham Sports Awards was a deserved accolade for all of the academy staff.Some of Nottinghamshire’s greatest sports stars came together at the East Midlands Conference Centre to honour the county’s sporting excellence and last season’s Under 18 side scooped the Under-19/School Team of the Year prize.
The award was justified recognition for an exceptional season in which the Under 18s finished top of their Professional Development League table after winning 23 of their 30 matches and reached the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup before being edged out by Liverpool at The City Ground.
Holmes, who stepped up to the position of head coach following Jack Lester’s move to the Under 23s, was proud to see his side pick up the award and says a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to allow the players to produce their best performances.
Speaking this afternoon he said: “It was great for Ben Brereton and Kieran Hayes to go and accept that award last night in a very prestigious setting with Olympians, Paralympians and people who have done a tremendous amount in the sporting arena. It was definitely awe-inspiring to see our boys pick up an award with the calibre of people around them last night.
“One of the ladies last night eluded to the fact that success is often done in the darkness. The light is when the boys step out on the pitch and get the chance to perform but a lot of the work is done away from the pitch.
“Whether that be strength and conditioning, goalkeeping, sports science or nutrition, it is an excellent set of staff. That goes right the way through to the operations manager, the administration staff and the maintenance staff. The training ground gives us an environment where we all feel together and we believe we are always striving to achieve excellence.”
The current crop of Under 18s have also enjoyed a positive season so far, sitting third in the table ahead of tomorrow’s home game against Leeds United, and Holmes believes the pathway from the academy through to the first-team is inspiring many of the club’s youngsters.
He said: “From pre-season to now there have been an awful lot of opportunities for players to develop. The pleasing thing is that many players have been playing in the older age groups so plenty of Under 18s featuring for the Under 23s and lots of Under 16s playing for the Under 18s.
“We’re an academy that wants to push players and we want to get players into the first-team. It is also about being a support base for the first-team and providing them with players that are good enough to go in.
“With the first-team head coach we have now and with the club as it is, players are getting that chance and that’s really pleasing for us. Our only wish is that when they get on the pitch, they do the supporters and the club justice and so far this season we can say they definitely have.”