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Under-18s

U18s benefit from player-led matchday

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

On Saturday the under-18s were tasked with leading their own matchday as they faced Newport County in their final league game.

No longer able to win the league, manager Alan Connell instead allowed the players to guide the afternoon's game against the Exiles, the squad members in charge of the build-up, in-game tactics as well as leading the team talks through the day.

While the side lost the fixture, invaluable experience was picked up, with Connell talking to afcb.co.uk about the plan for the matchday and how he felt his players executed their opportunity.

"With it being our last league game, it was a way of asking how we can challenge the players and give them something different," he explained.

"It was an interesting experiment, we do a lot of player-led work with the analysis but this was an opportunity for the second years especially to be in charge.

"They led the analysis yesterday with how we were going to play in and out of possession, then they took the team talk before the game, at half time and at full time. The injured boys were taking notes and they had an input as well.

"It was a really interesting experience for the older players to put into practice their intelligence and to help their team-mates, especially with the number of under-16s we had involved.

"From my point of view it was challenging for me as well because all I did was sporadically encourage them from the sideline, I gave them no tactical input. 

"It was some long-term thinking, hopefully in years to come people will benefit from the experience."

Connell spoke further on the goal of developing leadership from the players in his squad, forced to make their own decisions in the heat of the difficult moments in the game.

"With all young players nowadays you're looking for leaders because they are harder to find," he said. "People are the characters that they are, so you're looking to get that extra five or ten percent out of who they are.

"I thought they all did that and it was interesting when the game was going against who the ones were who were still encouraging, demanding and trying to do the right things; whether they were just looking after themselves or trying to help others.

"It's something that I'd want to do again. I wasn't focused necessarily on the result, I care about making the players as well-rounded as possible for the next step in their careers."

Speaking on the match itself, the manager highlighted the need to be better in both boxes to lay the groundwork for positive results in the future. 

He said: "There were a lot of good things, the story of our last few months has been not taking our chances - and at the other end we were punished as they were ruthless in front of goal. We can do a lot better on all the goals, but credit to them because they were a threat going forwards.

"From our point of view there were too many missed chances and too many misplaced passes for a team that want to be in possession and play the ball through the thirds."

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