A couple of weeks ago I sat down with Andy Alman the manager of Worthing FC Under 16’s to take a glimpse into the future at Woodside Road.
On Sunday 15th March Andy will lead his team out at Culver Road, home of the Sussex FA in the Under 16 County Cup final where they will take on last years winners Select Soccer from Eastbourne kick off time 2.30pm.
Here is what Andy had to say about Worthing FC, his under 16 team and the future for his players:
TK: How did you become involved with Worthing Under 16’s?
AA: I’ve always been involved in youth football, right from the time my lad was 4 years old at Rustington Otters, and then asked to manage that team from the age of 6. Then I went to Worthing Utd and when the opportunity arose to come here you have to take it.
They were just setting things up as it was, I was approached because I knew the chairman at the time (Pete Stone) and I knew Hinch as well, this came at the right time for myself and the team I had. I had a year at Worthing Utd, really respect them as a club, great set-up there and it was a bit of a gamble to leave there but one we haven’t looked back from. What I liked about Utd was they have a very young outlook, lots of younger people involved in the running of the club.
The facilities here are great, the coaching is fantastic, and it certainly feels like the right choice. The lads that we’ve got here in my team have been great, we had a really good first year and really pushed on this season. Ultimately, I’m doing it for my lad, I know it’s been the right move for him to get twice a week training and competitive football as well on a Sunday
TK: How long has the youth set-up been in place at Woodside Road?
AA: This is its second year and also the same for the academy. The academy is more of an education and footballing combined experience with Under 19 football in the afternoon. Of course we have Aarran’s Under 18’s in the midweek youth league, and these Under 16’s of mine also play in an Under 18 league on Sundays, again that was a bit of a gamble, but we knew the boys were capable and are going great guns in the Southern Combination Youth League.
Last year we were a little worried they would be out-powered but they’re far from that. Their technical ability has really shone through, we’re second in the league at the moment and in the County Cup final for Under 16’s, so we’re doing really well. We’ll be at this level for another two years now, but these boys will be looking more towards either the Under 18’s or getting into the academy as time progresses.
TK: Is the County Cup semi-final win a sign of how far these boys have come given the nature of the opponents?
AA: We’ve always had great games against Eastbourne Borough who are largely considered to be ones of the best Under 16 teams in Sussex, so we knew it was a real measure and to win it pretty convincingly too, we played some good football that day. We were up against a lot of their side who’ve appeared for the Sussex Under 16 Rep team whereas we’ve just a handful of Sussex players so for me it shows how far the lads have come.
TK: The level of coaching the boys receive from Adam and Aarran must be something you wouldn’t see at a lot of other clubs?
AA: No, I think you’re right, I feel very inadequate up against those two! But, one of my gripes about youth football is there’s not enough help for all these grassroot clubs to bring these players through and you need better coaching to achieve it. I’ve seen over the years so many clubs not able to offer a good standard of coaching, me myself I had a Level One and off I went, but we’re not at the levels these guys are at, they’ve got the top level licenses to be the best.
Hinch actually helped my lad through going to All Stars, Jamie Howell there as well coaching, both of them had a big impact on him, I can see though the technical side really coming through from the boys due to the coaching they receive. Aarran as well though with his Football League experience to pass on, I keep telling the boys they don’t know they’ve been born with what they get from these two, I can’t praise them highly enough.
TK: I spoke to quite a lot of the first team squad last year and the general consensus was the sessions Hinch would put on were mind blowing, but at 15 or 16 years old you probably don’t appreciate that.
AA: No, you’re right, Hinch though will put on the same session for the first team as he does for the Under 16’s and it’s top drawer. I can see some of what he’s teaching them coming out in the games we play, it’s much improved in all of them, passages of play, when to release, overloads, it’s all evident and it’s helping us outplay these Under 18 teams.
TK: How many of your current squad do you think have the potential to become Worthing first team players?
AA: Good question! I think there’s two aspects to the game to answer this, there is their technical ability which as I’ve said is getting more evident, some of them have never had this kind of coaching and they’re playing catch up a bit. The other part is the lottery of the physicality, we’ve got some good sized lads and others who don’t look older than Under 14 or Under 15 level. But if I’m being honest, I think a lot of them would have the opportunity to do it, they need however to keep to it, train hard and be committed.
They’ll have plenty of distractions between now and then as teenage boys, but they’ve got to come through that if they want to succeed. What they can see now though is the opportunities that will come their way to progress into the first team and that I hope would spur them on.
There’s some good players in the first team that wouldn’t be easy to oust but there’s something to work towards. We know Adam (Hinshelwood) isn’t shy to blood youngsters into the team and if Worthing get promoted there’s another level for the players to step up to.
TK: Do you see a clear pathway for your players into senior football?
AA: Absolutely! My philosophy over the years has been that I want my lads to play the best football they can, bond as team-mates, come through the good and bad times and ultimately enjoy their football. Coming to Worthing you can see there’s a bit more longevity in their football and there are opportunities there for them, it’s whether they take them here or at other football clubs.
TK: I think also you can look beyond a pathway into Worthing when you look at the likes of Callum Keely, David Ajiboye, Omar Bugiel and Lucas Covolan.
AA: Yes, it’s incredible to see and I think Worthing are now getting a reputation as a side that produces talent. We have scouts attending our games, the Under 18’s midweek as well and they know there’s a chance they’ll find some good players here.
And you can see more coming through, Finn (Stevens) is looking good, Ricky (Aguiar) is a talent to name just a couple, and if they play well enough to move on it then opens up the door for someone else to step up.
TK: Have any of your players had experience with academies elsewhere?
AA: Yes, a few have with Portsmouth but were released around 14 years old, few others have been with Brighton’s elite squad and I look at them and think they’re good enough for my team. I think they’ve improved here by playing competitive matches, there isn’t a lot of that in the academies so much. It’s competitive to the point of academy vs academy, but we’re playing for league points, for cups it just gives it that edge to things.
The last thing I’d like to mention is our sponsor which is SPC (Sussex Performance Centre) where Aarran is involved as well. Our lads get two training sessions a week and also some do strength and conditioning at SPC which is a great help as their bodies develop and like the coaching you can see the benefit of this as well.
My thanks to Andy and best wishes for the cup final on Sunday.