FIRSTLY, LET ME introduce myself. I am part of the youth team coaching staff at the Tottenham Hotspur FC Academy and am now in my second season having joined from Nottingham Forest FC and graduated from Loughborough University.
My position involves sharing my time between the practical coaching of the youth teams and the organisational work involved in supervising the 9-16yrs age groups.
We are all excited to be back at Spurs Lodge and the youth teams are now two weeks into their pre-season programme. As always, a new season sees the introduction of a fresh intake of players starting an Academy Scholarship.
This season, we welcome Iyad Ahmed, Ricky Dobson, Nicholas Eyre, Liam Francis, David Hicks, Andrew Hodges, Gareth Jenkins, Michael Malcolm, Kieran Mckenna, Owen Price and Joe Watson.
Some of these have and still are representing their country at International level. They include Eyre, Malcolm, Price and Watson for England and Mckenna for Northern Ireland.
These players have had to adapt to the demands of full-time training but have prepared themselves by following a close season fitness programme designed to help ease the transition. Many have also benefited from being involved in under-17 youth team matches during last season.
The coaching staff at the Academy, which include Peter Suddaby, Pat Holland, Jimmy Neighbour, Perry Suckling and myself, have been following a carefully planned pre-season programme. This has been created to achieve the correct balance of flexibility work, fitness and conditioning work, technical work, small-sided games and the suitable recovery time needed to maximise performance.
The games programme will also provide an opportunity for the players to improve match fitness and prepare themselves for the season. This has already started with the Under 17 squad travelling to play Oxford United last Friday which proved to be a good run-out for many of the players on a difficult surface.
A late goal from David Hicks was enough to win the contest although the team should have created more chances as they dominated possession throughout the match.
The pre-season friendlies continue this week with games for the youth teams against Brentford FC over the weekend. Both youth team squads have trips coming up as part of their pre-season programme.
The Under 19 squad will travel to Belgium to participate in the Eurofoot Tournament and the Under 17 squad are staying at Bisham Abbey for four days of coaching with two competitive matches against teams invited into the prestigious training centre. Previews and reports of both of these trips will appear in my next column.
Finally, congratulations to Philip Ifil, the Tottenham Hotspur U16 Academy player who has just returned from representing England against the Czech Republic, Italy and Brazil. Philip played in all three fixtures and won the man of the match award against Brazil.
This is the first of my regular columns reporting the latest developments from our thriving Academy. Hopefully this column will give you - the fans - an idea of the learning environment created within the Academy and the commitment that this club has to developing the next generation of Spurs players.
Academy coach Michael Stone launches his new column, the first of what will be regular bulletins keeping us informed of happenings within our successful youth development scheme.