. . . learn how the Swans are nurturing its young stars
As we have already seen, it has been a busy few months for Swansea City.
Both on and off the field, changes have been made as the club embarks on a second season in the Barclays Premier League.
The Swans begun the season in fine form following the arrival of a new manager and a host of summer signings.
But it isn’t just the first-team that has experienced change this summer.
Following months of hard work by a number of people, the club can now boast a category two Academy for the development of our young players.
This means that the club’s youngsters will come face-to-face with quality opposition on a weekly basis as they bid to earn a professional contract.
In addition to this, the introduction of an Under-21 squad has been tailored to bridge the gap between the Under-18s and the first-team squad, thus replacing what was commonly known as reserve team football.
Former Swans midfielder Kristian O’Leary, who joined the club’s coaching staff in the summer, will oversee the development of the club’s Under-21 players and Academy boss Tony Pennock insists the future is bright.
“We have been planning for this for quite some time,” he said. “We knew we would be incorporating an Under-21 squad into our ranks and Kris gladly accepted the role.
“He works on a daily basis with those players, along with some of the apprentices who will be looking to make the step up and be involved with him during games at the weekend.
“If our youth team players are involved with the Under-21s then we have to supplement our Under-18s with some younger lads so it is a progression for everybody.
“That is part and parcel of Academy football and I’m sure it will benefit them in the long run.”
As we all know, the club has grown rapidly over the past few years and in a lot of situations you have to adapt to that growth, and the Academy is no different.
With so much emphasis now on small margins at the top of the game, all clubs are trying new things in order to get an edge over their opponents.
And Pennock revealed that his department has embraced that culture of change and implemented it into the Academy setup.
“We have had to adapt our setup to fit in with the Category Two standard,” he said. “The number of staff we have now has grown rapidly, especially in the last four years.
“You have to educate the players as well, not just coach them everyday. Analysis and Sports Science are both important components of their development, and we have bought into that as a club.
“The main problem for us in recent years has been facilities. But with Landore taking shape and Fairwood looking to get up and running in the near future, it means we can have the Academy, Under-21s and the first-team training in the same place.”
So what does it all mean?
The Under-21 squad currently feature in Development League Two, coming up against a number of Football League sides that boast high quality Academies.
In what was traditionally reserve team football, you would often see a host of senior players drop down to the second string in order to gain match sharpness or continue their recovery from injury.
The rules now state that each team can name three overage outfield players in their matchday squad, as well as an overage goalkeeper.
As for the Under-16s and Under-18s, they will feature in the southern section of the Development League, playing against the same clubs as the Under-21s.
The fixture list operates on an alternate system whereby if one club is at home in the Under-21 league, the Under-16s and Under-18s will travel away to that respective club.