Cardiff City FC Academy | 2023 in Review
We caught up with key Academy figures to discuss their thoughts on the 2023, as well as their hopes for the New Year…
Darren Purse – U21s Manager
“2023 was exactly what it should be for the U21 side, which is a development year. We are a very young side, especially with the long-term injuries we’ve had for some of our more experienced players, which gave a lot of our younger boys an opportunity to get plenty of really good minutes with the U21s. We looked to finish the year really well in the last few games, while getting minutes into the boys who have been coming back from injury.
“The thing I’m most looking forward to in 2024 is for some of the lads to get out on loan and see how good they are at playing men’s football, continuing both their learning journey and adapting their game further. That’s the thing that I’m really looking forward to, as well as looking at the second year Scholars who will be stepping up to play with us as they aim to continue with professional contracts at this football club.”
Xavier Benjamin – U21s Captain
“At the start of 2023, I was on the bench with the First Team, which was a great experience. As the year went on, I was playing with the U21 side and received Academy Player of the Year at the end of my first season with the Club, which was an honour for me, and I’d like to again thank the people around me, God, and the coaches for helping me to improve and be a better player. I then spent the whole pre-season with the First Team, which led to my debut, which I felt I’d worked hard for and feel blessed to have done.
“I hope 2024 will be another year of blessings and I want to keep improving. The main goal for me is to break into the First Team; it’s the goal for any player to be involved in men’s football at the highest possible level, and Cardiff City is a good place to do it. In the U21 side, having players like Cameron Antwi, Raheem Conte and Ryan Kavanagh back from injury has really helped us all. They’re all big role models in the team and we glue well together, even when we don’t win. Pursey, Matthew Bloxham and Darren Davies have helped us to improve, and I’m loving my time as captain.”
Tom Hutton – U18s Manager
“I think that it was a really positive year. The lads are a pleasure to work with day in, day out, as they bring a really positive work ethic to training, and I’m really fortunate to have known a lot of them for a very long time, coaching some of them from the ages of 11 or 12. To be in a position where I’m able to coach them further at this age group makes me feel privileged and proud.
“We’ve had boys who have been on the bench for the First Team this year, with Josh Beecher making his debut as an U18 second year scholar, which is something that the Academy can be really proud of. We’ve also had a lot of exposure with the U18 side playing a lot of U21 football, so there’s that progression alongside the results we’ve had in the U18 PDL this season, which is what it’s all about for us. We’re now looking forward to a busy period as we catch up on league fixtures, whilst giving our players the opportunity to fill spaces in the U21 squad if the older lads do join other clubs on loan.”
Tanatswa Nyakuhwa – U18s Captain
“I’ve been enjoying this season so far, and when I have the chance to look back at 2023, I can say that I’ve had some good moments both individually and as a team. We were unfortunate not to make the Play-Offs at the end of last season, and we’ve done well so far with this new campaign.
“Tom Hutton has really fitted into the role of managing us, and it’s been great to move from Treforest to Llanrumney, where we’re really enjoying the facilities. It’s been easy to settle in, and it offers us as Academy players a better chance of developing with the Club. 2024 for me will be about trying to break into the U21 squad and playing as much football as I can, taking our form into the New Year with the U18s too and seeing where it takes us.”