Speaking after our U18s' 3-2 play-off semi-final defeat against Charlton Athletic on Saturday afternoon, Bobby Hassell expressed how proud he was of the young Reds’ incredible season.
Fabio Jalo scored a brace before a second half fightback from the Addicks saw them progress to the final. However, our Academy Manager outlined that this loss will be a learning experience for the youngsters and will help them progress as footballers.
“It’s a big learning curve,” began Hassell. “Everything I said at half-time that might happen, actually did. In big games like this, fatigue sets in, cramp kicks in last 15 or 20 minutes and injuries, and ultimately bad decisions as well.
“So, when that happens, we have to dig deep, stick together and make sure you are organised and, unfortunately, momentum changed after their first goal and, to be fair to Charlton, they had us last 10 minutes.
“But we have to be stronger, organise better in the box. Young kids, unfortunately, didn’t do that, but it will be an unbelievable learning experience for them going forward.”
Regardless of the result at the weekend, Bobby was delighted with the progress this group of players have matured and developed over the season.
It is the first time any of our academy teams have reached the Professional Development League play-offs, and was just reward for their endeavours over the campaign.
“Since the start of the season they have evolved brilliantly,” continued Hassell. “Like I said to them, we have only finished the season with two second years today – the rest are all first years and under 16s, so it’s a fantastic experience for them.
“Charlton have had a really strong team out, full of second years with some moving to pros next year. So, from where they were at the start of the season to where they are now, they have evolved and grown as a team tremendously and that’s all credit to Tom Harban and Keith Briggs that have taken them this season.
“It’s a learning experience now to go into next season.”
With the semi-final now reached, Hassell states that its only the start for these players as the target next year is to improve on this year.
“That’s the challenge we have just set them,” he asserted. “It’s the first time the academy has got this far and the challenge every year is to beat the previous year, so that will be the target set pre-season to get back into the play-offs and try and go one touch further.
“They can have a long break now; it’s been a tough season for the whole football club I think the under 18s and the academy have done really well this year, but we do need a break.”