Hywel Bartlett

Academy | Young Bluebirds prepare for the next steps at Llanrumney

As part of the EFL’s Youth Development Week, we take a look behind the scenes with our U15 and U16 age groups, who are working hard and enjoying their experiences with the Academy’s new facilities as its first season draws towards its conclusion.

Settled in his role as Lead U15 & U16 Coach within the Academy structure, Hywel Bartlett has enjoyed another campaign with his latest group of young Bluebirds, many of whom have been with the Club since they were young children. Repeating the feat of the U16 side reaching the Semi Final stage of the Premier League Cup this season, Hywel began by reflecting upon the campaign so far:

“We’ve had a brand-new group step in with us,” began Hywel. “And what I’ve been really pleased with is the progress from pre-season until this point. They’ve worked really hard, and I think that a lot of them have exceeded expectations. We got to the Semi-Final in the cup again, which mirrors our achievements last season."

Hywel Bartlett

“The achievement for myself has been working with this group of players day in, day out, and watching their hard work and dedication to improve, which has been really pleasing to see. Their progress has been the main positive for me.

“The success of last year’s group meant that a lot of the current group had to be more patient with getting their opportunities at higher age groups, and now they’re starting to get those rewards. We’ve now had a number of the boys play for the u18 side and have that exposure this season, including an U15 player. 

“We have to prepare the players for the step up. When that may be isn’t always clear, whether it’s pre-season or during, but we need to make sure that the players are best equipped for when they are needed. That’s the purpose of the programme, and we’ve seen the boys step up and apply themselves really well this year, if that’s being on the bench, starting or even in training. The feedback from the other coaching staff then is important to us when they rejoin our group.

“The strength of the programme at the moment is clear when we look at the boys who have gone up to the U18 side and handle the occasion.”

Continuing, Hywel shared his thoughts on a pivotal change to the operation of the Academy this season, as the base in Llanrumney has improved the day-to-day working environment for players and staff alike:

“It’s been transformative, really,” Hywel explained. “Last season, we were training at four different sites over four different nights, whereas now we have our own area to train in one space. We have our analysis suite where we can keep everything we do under one roof, and it’s a massive bonus. Logistically the parents find getting their children to just the one venue more convenient, also.

“Everything has been accessible to us as we work from one hub. They’re now brushing shoulders with all different age groups, which means that they’re watching fellow Academy players training and playing, which is great for the younger groups to look up and see what the more advanced level looks like.

“The interaction for staff is also better, where coaches can now freely watch other age groups in training. That integration by being in the building together has definitely helped.”

U16s train at llanrumney

One such player who has seized the opportunities presented by the Academy this season is Olly Reynolds, whose appearances for the U16 and U18 sides have been enlightening for the young defender.

“This year is a stressful one for the boys when they’re thinking about scholarship decisions, but it’s pushed us on to be the best versions of ourselves,” said Olly. “The sessions have been varied throughout the season, which has helped all of us to develop.

“You’ve got to put your best foot forward everyday, which is the same in life. We’ve got to continue to work hard and I think that we can all be grateful for the opportunities that we’ve been given.”

Discussing the introduction to life at Llanrumney, Caerphilly-born Olly shared his thoughts on the new base:

“These facilities are much better for us and I really enjoy training here," he explained. "But from my point of view I live ten minutes away from the old training ground!

“Everything here is brand new, so it feels better to train here and now I’m looking forward to getting out on the grass during the summer.

“I’m in contact with a lot of the older boys, and it’s been good to get a taste of what it might be like next year. I want to enjoy my football and try to get into the U18 squad and earn game time, which will be a good challenge as I know there is tough competition for places in the team. I want to give the coaches a good reason to choose me, as I’ve worked with [U18 Lead Coach] Tom Hutton before when I was playing for the U14 side.”