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Under-18s

Young guns benefit from training with Pitman

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Coach Alan Connell hailed Brett Pitman’s attitude and professionalism after the former AFC Bournemouth striker had trained with the club’s under-18s.

Pitman was last week given permission by Portsmouth boss Kenny Jackett to train with the Cherries after confirming the frontman was “not in my plans at the moment”.

The 32-year-old initially linked up with the under-21s but asked to join in with Connell’s squad as Shaun Cooper’s group were given some time off during the week.

And Pitman, the Cherries’ fourth all-time leading league marksmen with 96 goals, was put through his paces alongside Connell’s young guns at Canford Arena on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Connell told afcb.co.uk: “With the under-21s following a similar schedule to the first team, they had a few days off and Brett wanted to keep himself fit and carry on training.

“His attitude and professionalism were first class and he was really helpful. He certainly made my job a lot easier and it was great for the lads to have him in the group for a couple of days.

“He’s a club legend, he’s had a great career and still has a lot to offer. Our young players will have benefited enormously from training with someone with his experience and quality.

“He didn’t have to come with us but he did because he wanted to and he wants to keep himself fit. It was a great example for the boys to see that from an experienced professional.

“Most of the lads knew who he was, particularly the local boys and I made them all aware of what he did for this club. A large part of where this club is today is down to Brett’s exploits and it was a great lesson and learning experience for them to be around him.”

The Cherries, who won the south west division of the EFL Youth Alliance, open their Merit League One campaign against Stevenage at Canford Arena tomorrow (11.30am kick-off, entry free).

The competition sees the top six from the south west and south east merge into one division and play each other once, either home or away.

Stevenage finished sixth in the south east division and the Cherries will also host Portsmouth, Oxford United, Northampton Town, Swindon Town and Southend United as well as visiting Yeovil Town, Peterborough United, Exeter City, Cambridge United and AFC Wimbledon.

Connell, who described the league as “competitive”, added: “At this stage of the season, clubs start to make changes with one eye on next season.

“Some of our players are already out on loan and we might look at trying to get more out in the next few weeks.

“It depends on a player’s individual needs and what clubs are looking for. For some players, we feel it’s better for them to stay here for the rest of the season so there are lots of different cases and how we deal with them.

“With the Merit League starting, we will look to do what we always do – work hard, dominate the ball and perform as well as we can in the AFC Bournemouth way.

“We haven’t played Stevenage this season so it should be an interesting game. We host Portsmouth next Saturday so it’s nice to have a couple of home games to start with and it would be great for our supporters to come and watch.

“We have 11 games in the Merit League and are also looking at getting some midweek fixtures against different opposition.

“We are making sure there is plenty to play for in the last few months of the season. Players are fighting to win contracts and first years are looking to step up and nail down a place for now and next season. As a team, we want to do well in the Merit League.”

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