The AFC Bournemouth under-18s began their pre-season programme with a strong 3-0 win away at Reading’s training ground on Saturday.
Euan Pollock, Khavarn Williams and Ferdinand Okoh were the Cherries scorers at the Royals’ Hogwood Park facility, the match an important step for Alan Connell’s squad after an extended period on the sidelines without any match action.
“We’ve had four weeks build up, which is longer than we’d normally have before our first game,” Connell told afcb.co.uk.
“The boys looked quite fit and strong and I saw lots of encouraging signs with the things that we’d worked on for four weeks coming out. But most importantly I wanted the boys to really enjoy themselves after such a long time out without a game.
“They definitely did that, and the performance and the result helped, with that feeling of a new group coming together and winning together. That will hopefully harness the cohesiveness in the group even more.”
With the 2019/20 campaign ending early due to the pandemic and the youth team’s provisional season restart scheduled to start in the coming weeks, Connell spoke of the challenge of settling in the squad on and off the pitch amidst the unusual circumstances.
He explained: “There are things that I can see straight away that we need to be a lot better at, individually and as a group.
“It’s been more difficult this year because of the lack of social contact. We’re in and we’re out from a training perspective so we’ve not been able to do any team-building stuff; even their jobs, they’re not allowed to do those.
“That lack of togetherness has been challenging so we’re trying to think of innovative ways to help the first years settle. We played three under-16s on Saturday, which was pleasing, so they’ve been in with us as well.
“The boys’ attitude to everything has been first class and I’ve been really pleased with their response in the four weeks after what was a three-month break, which has been a challenge for the whole country let alone the boys at such a crucial stage in their careers and life as well.”