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Development Squad

Year in review: Development squad


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

The AFC Bournemouth development squad had a year to remember, both in terms of winning trophies and player progression.

Shaun Cooper’s team lifted the Central League Cup and Hampshire Senior Cup and head into 2022 with everything to play for the Premier League Cup.

Goals from Christian Saydee and Jaidon Anthony saw them overcome Carlisle United in the final of the Central League Cup at St George’s Park in April.

And Mark Travers was the unlikely goal hero as his dramatic late header took the delayed Hampshire Senior Cup final to penalties, the Cherries going on to prevail against Eastleigh in the shootout.

Euan Pollock, one of seven players to graduate from the under-18s, netted twice in last month’s resounding Premier League Cup win over West Brom at Vitality Stadium.

His double, coupled with efforts from Saydee and Zeno Ibsen Rossi, significantly boosted the Cherries’ chances of reaching the knockout stages with three group games remaining.

However, the strength of the Cherries academy was emphasised by the fact four under-18s, including first-year scholar Ben Winterburn, featured for the development squad.

While midfielder Winterburn caught the eye having been handed a start by Cooper, fellow youth teamers Daniel Adu-Adjei, Marcus Daws and Ferdinand Okoh impressed after coming off the bench.

The likes of Saydee, Anthony, Ibsen Rossi, Gavin Kilkenny, Brennan Camp, Jordan Zemura and Ryan Glover are shining examples of the good work being done in the academy, the septet all having played for the first team this season.

Development squad coach Cooper sat down with afcb.co.uk to give his appraisal of the past 12 months.

“It was a hugely satisfying and rewarding year,” said Cooper, who took up his current role in October 2018 having cut his teeth in coaching with the club’s under-13s.

“Everybody has had to face different and difficult challenges during the pandemic and we have had ours to deal with in football and football coaching.

“Winning two trophies was a real feather in the cap for the players. While developing players is our main priority as coaches, a winning mentality is a must for any aspiring professional footballer.

“We played a number of friendlies against strong opposition during the year and we always ask the players to stick to our principles and play to our philosophy which they did so that was pleasing.

“One of the main objectives of any development squad is to produce players for the first team. Several members of our squad have made that step and have acquitted themselves well so far.

“It’s very rewarding for everybody in our department when you see a first-team team-sheet which includes names of young players who have progressed through the academy.

“One of the first steps on that ladder is gaining valuable experience during a loan spell and a number of our players did that during 2021. A lot of thought goes into deciding which players go where and young players learn life lessons and footballing lessons when they go out on loan.

“We have tremendous potential coming through and there is a great deal of excitement about what the future may hold for our players and our department. Everybody is really looking forward to 2022.”

Cooper was joined in 2021 by former Cherries star Tommy Elphick who took up his first coaching role with the development squad after announcing his retirement as a player.

Elphick added to a diligent backroom staff which includes Elliot Whiteside (sports science), Joe Prodomo (goalkeeper coach), Matt Best (physio) and Andy Hardiman (analyst).

“Behind every good team, there’s a good team,” added Cooper. “We have a strong and professional staff and everyone contributed to an excellent 12 months for the development squad.”

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