DAN NOLAN | "It was a big day for the youth department"

Macclesfield Town
Posted:Tue 10 Sep 2019

Head of Youth Dan Nolan was a proud man as he saw five youth team players make their Wrexham debuts against Ayr United.

Max Cleworth and Jake Bickerstaff started the game, with Bickerstaff scoring Wrexham’s goal, before Cian Williams, Matthew Jones and Bobby Beaumont appeared as second-half substitutes.

Williams made history in the process, becoming Wrexham’s second-youngest ever player and the youngest to appear at the Racecourse Ground.

Attention now turns back to the youth team, with their National League Youth Alliance Division H campaign getting underway this week.

And Nolan was pleased to see work on the training pitch pay off with the team’s performance in the game against Ayr.

“I’m really proud and really pleased with how they all did,” he said. “It’s just fantastic for them to get exposure really to that environment and that level so yes, it was a big day for the youth department.

“I think both the boys who started were really accomplished. They showed good skill and great determination and they looked fit.

“They were able to cope physically as well in men’s football, and then the boys who came off the bench made an impact as well so it was really positive.

“We’ve always really pushed the boys to train at a level where, if they step into the first team training environment, they would be able to cope. That’s similarly had a knock-on effect for them being able to step into a first team match as well.”

The youth team’s 2019-20 season will have a different look to previous years, with the club now playing in the National League youth set-up.

It means a different match day and different opposition, but Nolan says the targets for the season do not change.

“We’ve moved into the National League Under-19s Alliance, so we’ve transitioned from an LFE-paid scholarship to an unpaid scholarship scheme being a non-league club,” he explained.

“It’s gone from a Saturday morning programme to a Wednesday afternoon programme, playing colleges, so it will be a different experience, a different challenge and perhaps a little bit of the unknown because we’ve not played at that level before. It will be a good opportunity for the boys to play more football.

“As a team, the target is about improvement. It’s always to improve. It’s about development and not necessarily about winning although winning validates the process.

“It’s just trying to get as many boys into that first-team squad at the end of the season.”

Last season’s Wrexham youth team proved to be a very young one, with a large majority of first-year players.

But after a strong end to last season, Nolan hopes the experience will benefit those players in the long run.

And he challenged those that made their debuts against Ayr to keep up their high standards if they are to continue to knock on the first team door.

“We’ve probably got seven or eight main starters who are going to be second years this season so that will be different – Max Cleworth and Jake Bickerstaff being two of them,” Nolan said.

“They’ve got experience of playing week in and week out as a group and as a team playing against older boys.

“After the first four months of last season, where it was tough for the group [playing against older, more experienced teams], they have really benefitted. They finished the season really strongly in that LFE competition and so hopefully that will stand them in good stead.

“It’s just a continuation of the process, really. They are really good kids – and they are still kids, which is sometimes is easy to forget – but it’s just about continuing that process and pushing them every single day.

“The boys have got good standards and I’ve got high standards as well and it’s just a continuation of that.”

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