Concluding the final part of his assessment of the Nottingham Forest Academy, Grant Nelson asserts the importance of a link between the Academy and the first team and identifies some of the players to watch in the future.
Recent years for Nottingham Forest have been turbulent at senior level. First-team managers have come and gone and a lack of continuity has made it difficult to build a long-term strategy between our first team and Academy. What is vitally important though is that the first-team manager has a passion and an interest in the Academy before the relationship can even begin. Even if there hasn’t been much continuity between the first team and Academy in recent times, the Academy has always encouraged to play football the ‘right way’. And that entails encouraging players to want the ball, play it in to feet, keep possession and pass it about.
Young players will make mistakes employing this philosophy but in the long-run it will pay off as Forest fans have always wanted ‘proper football’ at the first-team level as it’s been a big part of our history and tradition. I’m not one to say that I never want to see a long-ball played because, if used intelligently and with precision, it can be useful, but the overall mentality is to play football as Brian Clough intended.
A lot of the hard work begins with the Under-9 age group, trying to get the players feel comfortable on the ball. Our Under-9 to Under-11 age group co-ordinator, Richard Meek, is someone who always wants kids to just enjoy the game first and foremost, but a lot of the basics are instilled from a young age. Meek has a UEFA ‘A’ Licence and is very highly regarded by many. To be put it into perspective, there were Premier League and Champions League teams asking about his availability last summer.
Another highly respected staff member is Under-12 to Under-14 age group co-ordinator, Tony Cook, who has been working at Forest for quite some time. He is part of, arguably, the most important age groups in terms of preparing them for the Under-16 level where big decisions are made, such as whether a young player will get a scholarship for Under-18 level and move full-time to the Academy.
With respect to the current batch of talent on our books, many forget we already have three players from the Academy in the first team squad in Karl Darlow, Kieron Freeman and Danny Meadows – Freeman and Meadows have been the last two captains of the Under-18s. The club has taken the decision to field very young teams at both Under-16 and Under-18 level this season and there are a large amount of first year (Under-17s) playing for the Under-18s this season as well as two schoolboys involved. The Under-17 generation is held in high regard as a team and had an amazing record together at Under-15 and Under-16 level.
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Similarly, there have been very few Under-16 players playing for the Under-16s this season as two have largely been with the Under-18s, meaning there have been a large number of Under-15 players playing for the Under-16s. An Under-14 centre-back has also played for the Under-16s while three other Under-14s are training with the Under-15s and Under-16s on a regular basis. There are particularly high hopes for the Under-15 age group.
Players to watch out for
Under-18: Dimitar Evtimov (GK), Jamaal Lascelles (CB), Jack Andrews (LB), David Morgan (CM), Ben Osborn (LM)
Under-17: Jordan Smith (GK), Eurico Sebastaio (RB/RW), Lawrence Gorman (CB/RB), Kieran Fenton (CB), Elliott Ackroyd (LB), Aristote Amisi (RW/LW), Michael Hollingsworth (CM/RM), Jack Blake (ACM), Kieran Wallace (ACM), Josh Thomas (LW), Jordan Palmer-Samuels (CF)
Under-16: Ross Durrant (GK), Aaron Myles (GK), Deimantas Petravicius (RW), Wilfred Gnahore (ACM), Jake Mulraney (LW), Derrick Otim (CF), Danny Elliott (CF)
Under-15: Joe Worrall (CB), Kyle Symons (LB), Oliver Burke (RW), Mo Adams (CM), Chris Spencer (CM), Luke Thomas (LW), Kasheme Walton (CF), Tyler Walker (CF)
Under-14: Alex Iacovitti (CB), Tom Gamblen (LMF), Jerry McDonagh (CF), Elvis Otim (CF)
You can find out more about the Academy on the Nottingham Forest site.
Follow Grant on Twitter: @GazNffc