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2012-13 preview - Under-21s

Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey have been delighted with the application of the development squad this summer - now they take that form into the all-new Barclays Under-21 Premier League.

We kick-off the new competition with a trip to Newcastle - in fact, our Under-18s, 21s and senior team make the same trip to the North-East - with a 12noon kick-off on Saturday.

The squad is in Group B of the league, which is part of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) and has been devised as part of the new system that will help bridge the gap between Academy and First Team.

"We’ve had a very good pre-season," reported Les. "We went off to Portugal for 10 days and mirrored the first team’s pre-season in LA and it was a good training camp.

"We’ve come back from Portugal and seen the progression of the group from there.

"We played Northampton, a tough team to go and play against, a team who we actually played a year ago and they bullied us off the park, this time around our football skills came to the fore and we won that fixture.

"Then we played Southend and that was a fantastic performance. The scoreline (6-0 win) doesn’t matter, we’re more interested in developing players and playing in a manner that will give them a better chance of playing in the first team, and that’s what they did at Southend."

Chris added: "The Southend result was great, but that’s not what we look at. The performance and application of the players has been really good, especially the lads who were involved with the first team in Valencia, they came and helped the younger lads and wanted to be involved, despite the fact they only arrived back in the early hours."