Barnsley U18s begin their Professional Development League campaign on Saturday with a home game against Watford.
Following Martin Devaney’s appointment as U23s coach, the Club have brought in Adam Murray to take charge of the U18s side. The former Derby County midfielder is raring to go when the season gets underway this weekend and is confident of achieving a positive result against the Hornets.
“I think we’ve had a good pre-season; we’ve worked the boys hard in terms of modern ways of doing things,” said Murray. “Pre-season is tough, we’re blessed here at the academy with some fantastic staff – not just coaches, but physio’s and sports scientists, and the analysis teams are all very good.
“It’s a team effort and all the players have come out of pre-season with flying colours. We had some tough games and played some Category One clubs, which gave us a real challenge, and there are areas that we need to improve on, but there have been a lot of plus points.
“We’ve done our homework on Watford; the players are prepared and ready for some competitive games now.”
Having previously played for Carlisle United, Oxford United and Mansfield Town, Murray has an extensive knowledge of the Football League, and eventually went on to become first team manager at the One Call Stadium.
He took permanent charge of the Stags in December 2014 following his role of caretaker manager and guided them from 21st place in League Two to 12th at the end of the campaign.
“I was assistant and then manager at Mansfield Town – I left Mansfield and then went to Boston United,” continued the 36-year-old. “In between that I was Lead Youth Development Phase at Burton Albion.
“Even in my first team roles we really promoted the kids and worked with a lot of young players and then in my role at Burton, I was working with 12 to 16-year-olds and then under 18s as well, so I have a big bag of experience at all different levels and I’m hoping I can bring that to the table and help develop the young lads here.
“I was fortunate to captain most of the clubs I was at, so I always had leadership skills that I got used to using. I started doing my coaching qualifications early in my career, and then over the last 11 years now I’ve been coaching at different levels and age groups while still playing.
“I finished playing when I was 32 to take up a managerial role in League Two, so it was obviously a quick start as a young man in terms of learning a lot from management, but the time now is right for me to take a step onto the development path and pass on my experience.”
The arrival of Daniel Stendel at Oakwell this summer has provided a renewed sense of optimism for the youngsters at our famed academy, with the German Head Coach keen to develop players from within the Reds’ youth set-up.
Murray admits that working at a Club with an ethos similar to his own was one of the main selling points, and he is keen to continue the rich tradition of providing homegrown players with a pathway for first team football.
“That was one of the big and most exciting points for me when I spoke to Greg [Miller] and Bobby [Hassell]; there’s a philosophy that runs through the Club,” continued the U18s coach.
“Being around when Daniel Stendel came in and seeing the ideas that he wants to implement – for a young coach it’s fantastic to try and pick things up and learn off someone who has been successful and has different ways of doing things.
“He’s had a positive effect on everyone so far and there’s a real pathway for the kids to get through here, and that’s a massive draw for me because you know that, when you’re working hard daily with the young lads, that there’s an end goal for them. They can see that, and we can see it as coaches so it’s a really positive environment.
“I think, even though I knew I was coming into a very high standard of Club with a high standard of players, it’s pleasantly surprising of the standard of the academy players.
“There are some very technically gifted players in and around the under 18s and under 23s, who all still have a lot of hard work to do to reach the first team, but I think with the coaches we have at the Club and the attitude of the players, which is most important, there’s a few who have a real chance.
“With the right guidance and the right decisions made by the players and the commitment they put in, hopefully we’ll see a few of them in the first team.”