The AFC Bournemouth Under-18s had a successful season in 2018/19, with members of the squad feeding back on the highs and lows of their campaign.
The youth team reached the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals, the first Cherries side to do so in 50 years, and qualified for the Merit League in the second half of the season, with plenty of the squad enjoying first-team men’s football on work experience loans at clubs around the region.
Nine of the squad have subsequently signed contracts to progress to the under-21s for next season.
The side’s captain Brennan Camp received a first call-up to the Scotland Under-19s squad, while striker Jake Scrimshaw top-scored for both the Cherries and Poole Town over the campaign, with the pair joining manager Alan Connell to discuss the season with afcb.co.uk.
MAKING FA YOUTH CUP HISTORY
JS: If you’d have said at the start of the season we’d have got to the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup against Man City I’d have said ‘No chance!’
I scored a hat-trick against Oxford United in the earlier round and that was good. It was the fourth time we’d played them and they wanted to beat us so badly, so to get that hat-trick was amazing.
BC: The lads have had a really good season, we started off slowly but once we bonded we became a tight unit on and off the pitch and you can tell with the performances and the FA Youth Cup run when we did really well.
I was injured for two weeks before the Aston Villa match, I trained a bit the day before but I still wasn’t right. I started and we won 2-0, and played very well. That was a highlight for me, I was struggling throughout the match but we managed to get through.
We knew it would be tough to go all the way and then we came up against a very good side in Manchester City, so that was always going to be difficult.
USING LOANS TO AID DEVELOPMENT
JS: I got six goals on my debut for Poole Town and 17 in total while I was there. Going there gave me experience, playing against men in more physical games, that has improved my hold-up play and my mentality as well, with Poole it was more about just winning, getting the result no matter how you play.
Poole have had a lot of good strikers, Charlie Austin was there and Sam Surridge more recently. It tested me mentally, in some games I’d be on the bench and then the next week I might be starting, then in the next game I’d be back on the bench again.
BC: Early in the season my loan at Dorchester was very good, I played 13 games for them and it was a really good experience – even playing in the FA Trophy for them away at Barnet. We gave a really good account of ourselves there, losing 2-1. I played most of every game for Dorchester while I was there, 90 minutes every week which was good, playing against men which is what I needed this season.
I finished the season at Weymouth, was with them for a few weeks but only managed to play one game in the Southern League Shield against Kettering, we won that on penalties and getting some silverware with them topped off a good season for me.
MAKING THE STEP UP TO THE UNDER-21S
BC: Over the summer I need to do the usual stuff: keeping fit, making sure I’m in good condition but also making sure I’m getting stronger, because I’m going to be playing against much more physical men next season. If I can keep everything going hopefully I won’t look out of place next season.
JS: I need to keep my fitness up over the off-season, keep going to the gym so that I’m ready to make that step up when we come back. I’m really looking forward to it because this season went well so I want more of the same. The goal target depends on how it goes.
At the start of the season I was hoping to get a professional contract and I wanted to score 35 goals for the season, in the end I got 48 for Bournemouth and Poole. I thought I might struggle to get there, but as the season continued I was getting closer and closer and then passed my aim.
CONNELL OFFERS HIS OWN REVIEW
AC: From a team point of view we’ve produced some really good performances. At the start of the season we struggled, trying to get it all to gel together. When it clicked we suddenly looked really good.
Then there was the FA Youth Cup, getting to the quarter-finals, that was the highlight from a team point of view. They were big occasions, playing at our own stadium was great and they were good experiences for the players and the staff as well. It gave the whole academy a lift and gave the boys exposure in the media which was nice.
There have been loads of highs, there always are lots of ups and downs, which you’ll always get with young players in development terms, but I loved every minute. It’s been an incredible set of lads to work with – I’m delighted that nine of them have got an opportunity to develop further with AFC Bournemouth.