In my previous post, I talked briefly about my thought process in promoting Bobby Adekanye to the senior squad instead of the arguably better-qualified Ben Woodburn, just for the sake of keeping my ‘system’ intact.
Off the back of a man-of-the-match performance for Adekanye against Bournemouth, I wanted to revisit that dilemma, and use both players as an example of my development strategy. I’ve seen a lot said/written about what benefits players at certain ages. The consensus seems to be that for Under 18s, training offers the greatest benefit, whereas after 18, game-time is more important. Now I am aware that that is where all other things are equal, which isn’t strictly the case of this piece. What I intend to do, is look at both players on the 1st of October (the start of a new training cycle), and again on the 1st of January (the start of the next training cycle), and compare their development.
October 2017: Bobby Adekanye
For Bobby, as a member of our senior squad, Team Training is tactical for the next three months. He has role training set to Winger at AML, and an individual focus on his Stamina, since he can’t run for 10 minutes without being winded.
October 2017: Ben Woodburn
As Ben is part of our Under 18 squad, Team Training for him is set to Attacking, while his role training is also set to Winger at AML. Ben’s individual focus is also his stamina, having just switched from his previous focus on quickness.
Three Months Later…
…and its time to see just how both players have developed!
January 2018: Bobby Adekanye
While not earth-shattering, Bobby’s development has been reasonable, with improvements in his dribbling, technique, passing, acceleration, stamina and a couple of mental attributes. He has also justified his selection as the player to be promoted, With 3 goals and an assist in 8 games in the league so far, and an average rating of 7.25.
January 2018: Ben Woodburn
With 34 youth appearances under his belt already this year, Ben has arguably seen more game-time than Bobby, albeit at a lower level. The Welsh sensation has also seen his attributes develop, although these were mainly physical, with Acceleration, Pace and Stamina all increasing, while his technical abilities remained on roughly the same level. In terms of performances, Ben has 23 goals and 10 assists at a youth level, and has spent 3 weeks of the last 3 months out injured, first with a pulled groin, and then with pulled knee ligaments.
Overall, my little experiment hasn’t really shed any light on exactly what it is which drives youth player development; if anything Bobby Adekanye showed better improvements in his technical abilities than Woodburn did, and in doing so the once written-off Dutchman has landed himself a new 3 year deal with the club!