The Director’s season review

“Every year we’ll be strengthening the structure – not reincarnating the whole structure,” reflects Lutel James, Farsley Celtic Academy director, on the 20/21 season.

The birth of the U21s at the end of last season is the final extension in the Academy blueprint, shortly following the debut U16s season, to creating the “clear and clinical structure” to “develop first-team players that go on and play professional football and get opportunities”.

A first senior goal for Farsley for 18-year-old Louis Fialdini in the opening 21/22 pre-season friendly vs Eccleshill United, rebuffed by fellow Academy player Oliver Broe’s assist in the following friendly, are the two most recent successes stemming from last season.

New strategies looking to compliment the now complete academy were also being created by James last term, involving improving the connectivity with other surrounding clubs to offer them the same exposure through the Academy.

Speaking after the U21s’ friendly vs Drighlington, James explained he spoke with their manager “wanting to learn more about players who deserve that secondary opportunity.

“How can we then connect with all these teams to be a platform to excel and expand on because all those coaches that have put in great work over the years, sometimes their players don’t get exposure and opportunities, and what we’re saying is, how can we be a beacon for that and create that with other clubs. I spoke with Tingley who’s got some great players in there who never get looked at, never get promoted in any way.”

Improved media communication as well as Liam Willingham’s appointment as head of recruitment are further improvements off-field mirroring those on it.

Wilfred Frimpong’s exposure into the newly-formed U21s perfectly highlighted its importance, rising from the U19s, being named captain before eventually making his debut for the U23s at the end of the year.

“How do you develop young people’s mindset to take on board playing as an u23 or 21, or 16-19 or an u16?” began James. “Sometimes, it’s a bigger transition and not just about the footballing field in itself.

“I think that’s what’s been pleasing this year more than any, is that detail is starting to go into it, because even though we’ve got those groups now, and they’re strong groups in themselves, we want to strengthen and condition them so they’re twice as strong as they are now and that added value around their psychological state of mind to make sure they can take on board all those challenges, physically, mentally and accountability, representation of the club and doing it in the best way possible.”

Kyrell Kavanagh was rewarded with two separate trials, with Huddersfield & Burnley, following a successful U16s’ debut season in which the side were crowned JPL Plate champions.

“The principle to that is, from the JPL [U16s] right the way to the 23s, the mind has got to be conditioned so you can fall into any of them areas and know the principles of what we’re doing,” explained James.

“This is what it [the U16s] transitions them towards – teaching them the way to play the game and the reasons behind it. A lot of young people play football but then teaching them football is two different things.

“It’s given us an opportunity to expose young people to a semi-professional environment at the earliest possible stage.”

Trials for next season are underway as the Academy look to next season and James is aware that there are improvements still to be made.

“And lets just be straight about one thing as well – this year has been a massive learning curve in itself and theres been a lot of positive things happen but equally, we’re also aware of the things we need to improve on as well and each year we’ll be constantly trying to improve every area of our delivery at all times”.