Tom Hutton (left) and Steve Jenkins (right).

Youth Development Week | U18 - Coaches' Catch-Up

U18s Manager Steve Jenkins and Coach Tom Hutton sit down to discuss youth development, progressing the person as well as the player, and a busy period during the World Cup break…

Jenkins and Hutton began by offering a glimpse at what working during a World Cup break will look like, with several key fixtures coming up throughout November and December:

Tom Hutton: “We’re hoping to get the boys all together, as a group of staff and players, to watch the Wales matches, as we feel it is important for the lads to support their country and hopefully be inspired to achieve something like this themselves one day. We will look to do this as much as possible but as you’d expect with an intense training programme it will be business as usual over the next few weeks. We’ve got games coming in thick and fast, with a tough run-in before Christmas.”

Steve Jenkins: “I think that we can be pleased with the work done so far this year, going right back to our pre-season. We’ve had a plan in terms of how we wanted to play, but also the environment in which we wanted the boys to play and develop. We set up a number of meetings throughout the pre-season, as well as when we’ve been around the training ground at Treforest, and to be fair the players have really bought into it. It’s a good place at the minute, with a hardworking environment, and it’s down to both us and the boys to maintain and build upon it.”

U18 training

With the U18 side consisting of many young Bluebirds who have developed under the tutelage of the Academy for nearly ten years, the pair discussed the importance of continuing development throughout the duration of the scholarship programme:

TH: “A lot of the current group have been here for a very long time with most joining as early as 7 or 8 years old, so I feel privileged to be able to work with the players now on a daily basis at U18 level. I’ve been here a long time myself so that has allowed me to see the majority of the lads develop from the very early stages of the Foundation Phase to now making progress in the U18 side. As an Academy we put a lot of emphasis on developing our own, so I think it’s rewarding when you see the lads move into a full-time scholarship, and I think this is something a lot of people can be proud of. Being part of an Academy takes up a big chunk of a young person’s life so spending so much time here has also allowed the players to develop some close relationships amongst each other as well. We feel this has given the boys a positive head start in their scholarship and we also put a lot of emphasis on team cohesion and developing the players to become good teammates as well as good players.”

SJ: “We try to get to know the lads as people as well as players, understanding them as individuals. We all have different abilities, but it’s key to give everybody their time, and focus on players as individuals.”

TH: “Young players of course develop at different rates, and it’s up to us to figure out when is best to challenge them, as well as when to provide more support if it’s needed. The scholarship process is full of ups and downs; there are setbacks like injuries or you may have moments where you’re in and out of a squad. There may be periods where you’re even stepping up to compete in a higher level with the U21 side.”

SJ: “The scholarship is really tough. From the work done on the grass to the education that is given on Wednesdays. Their only real days off are on Sundays, and when it can be challenging, we make sure that we’re there to support.”

Cardiff City U18

Having joined forces ahead of the 2022/23 season, Steve and Tom reflected on their work partnership thus far, with each coach bringing a different skillset to the group:

TH: “I think that Steve and I work really well together, as we each bring different things to the role. We’ve got different skillsets, and it gives the boys a more rounded experience and football development. Steve has had a brilliant career which has seen him play a lot of games professionally, and as a result I think he is great at offering the players insight into what that next stage of their development might look like, as well as the many challenges that can lie ahead.”

SJ: “The good thing is that we get along, which helps! We’re enjoying ourselves, and the next thing for us is hopefully going on a good run of results over the next few weeks! The key focus is always the development of these young men in our U18 side, but we always turn up to fixtures wanting to win.”