Our Under-18s clinched top spot in the domestic standings with two games to spare on Tuesday by inflicting a 7-2 defeat on a young Chelsea side at Cobham – booking a date with Everton in the end-of-season play-offs.
Academy Manager John, while impressed with the lads’ campaign, reinforced how his over-riding philosophy of bringing young players through the ranks remains at the forefront of his mind in the wake of the triumph.
“The boys have now won the league which I’m extremely pleased about, but it’s always been about developing players at this level and that hasn’t changed,” John said.
“We mustn’t lose focus on our overall goal which is to ensure the continued development of our young players beyond youth football.”
John also preferred to look at Tuesday’s victory at Chelsea in isolation to the rest of the campaign: “It’s quite a peculiar feeling because our opponents obviously had to play in the FA Youth Cup final less than 24 hours before playing us, so it was frustrating but understandable we couldn’t play their top eleven and really test our players to the pinnacle,” he said.
“But in the grand scheme of things, while perhaps one of our best and most testing fixtures hasn’t panned out as both teams would have wanted because of fixture congestion, we are where we are based on our results over the entire season and now we must continue to push on.”
Josh Onomah bagged a brace on Tuesday while Lloyd Ross was also on the scoresheet, but it was a four-goal showing from Shayon Harrison that left our Academy boss particularly pleased.
The forward converted from a variety of different positions in and around the Blues’ penalty box – and John revealed that clinical performance was as a result of much hard work on the training ground.
“Both Shayon and Will Miller, who didn’t play on Tuesday, have been working so hard on their finishing and being more efficient in front of goal in terms of their shooting accuracy – and with that will come goals,” John explained.
“I was really pleased for Shayon on Tuesday. His goals were the result of a lot of labour and a lot of focus and attention in training and hopefully he can keep that going.”