Jimmy Neighbour and his under-17 group have just returned from a short stay at Bisham Abbey and the coach offers his personal account on the progress of the new intake...
THE FIRST YEARS, the lads that have just left school, have come in and while some have found it hard, they have certainly worked hard on the training ground.
They have got to adjust - it is something new for them in their lives and they are not used to training every day. They have got to just keep working at it to get their fitness.
The boys are a little bit tired at the moment, with doing pre-season preparation and we have just come back from Bisham Abbey. Never mind, they have got to keep working and, by the time the season starts, hopefully they will be nice and fit and ready to go.
I have not been called on to be an Agony Uncle so far - most of the boys come in knowing what to expect. We have got an American lad - Brian Mascarenhas - who is obviously a long way from home, so we have got to look out for him a little bit. We also have Scott Thyer from Wales, who had the chance to get home last weekend, which was good for him. Hopefully they won't get too homesick.
We had a couple of games while at Bisham Abbey - we went on the Tuesday and came back on Friday. It was a great time for us and we did it last year as well.
It was a good opportunity for me to take the whole of the under-17s, along with some schoolboys - which will be the basis of my squad this year. It was ideal to get them together and work with them as a team and as individuals.
I think we got a lot out of it. The first game we played QPR and lost 2-0. I'm not too concerned about the result as it was our first game, it was a matter of getting the team together and trying to get some sort of shape.
We played Swindon in the second game and played very well. We played three periods and were 4-1 up with 20 minutes to go. I wanted to give everyone a game, played about with the team a little bit and we let in a couple of late goals.
I was pleased with the fact that we scored four goals although defensively we've got to improve a little bit. They worked hard and it was a great week.
I feel I have the basis of a team - there are some good first years. Three or four of them are going to push straight up to the under-19s and my team will miss them. The good thing for the Academy is the fact that we are pushing kids on and I can take three or four under-16s into my group to give them experience.
As you push kids on it can have a sort of snowball effect on the other teams below and it is good that you can do this.
With the under-19s off on a tour to Belgium on Thursday, I've got the under-16s coming in now they have broken up from school. Over the next few weeks they'll be coming in twice a week and I can get down to some good work with the team.