Coach Shaun Cooper said AFC Bournemouth’s new-look under-21 squad was shaping up nicely ahead of their first major competitive test of the season.
The Cherries will tomorrow start their defence of the Central League Cup when they meet Portsmouth in their opening group game at PMC Stadium on Eastern Road (7pm kick-off).
Tyrell Hamilton’s double fired them to a 2-0 win over Notts County in April as they put the finishing touches to an excellent campaign by lifting the trophy at Meadow Lane.
The Cherries triumphed 4-1 against Pompey on their way to winning their group and will also face Bristol Rovers and Plymouth Argyle in this season’s competition.
No fewer than ten members of the club’s successful under-18s stepped up to the under-21s after being rewarded with new contracts in the summer.
Cooper told afcb.co.uk: “This was a great competition for us last season. We did a lot of travelling and there were a lot of experiences for the players which will stand them in good stead for the future.
“Winning the final was certainly a great experience and I will mention that to the boys. We had a lot of first years in the squad and had a very young team in the final.
“The players are doing well and we are seeing progress. As a unit, they are knitting together and, physically, mentally and technically, we are seeing individual development which is pleasing.
“Hopefully, we can do well again in this tournament. Each experience they have in the development stage of their careers is a valuable one and there will be lots of lessons we can take.”
Cooper progressed through the ranks at Fratton Park before going on to make 240 appearances for the Cherries and captaining the club during the Greatest Escape season of 2008/09.
He added: “I had five years there between 16 and 21 and loved it. As everyone knows, it’s a football city and every child is brought up to be a Portsmouth fan.
“In those days, it was a different way of life for youth trainees. There were a lot of jobs to be done outside of the football so you learned a lot of morals and had certain characteristics instilled in you.
“If Pompey have any local boys playing, you know they will play with pride. They will be honest, hard-working and decent technically so it will be a tough game for us. But we look to get all those things into our boys as well so we will match them in every department.
“Pompey are always competitive and always have a great fighting spirit. With regards to their team, we are not sure what they are going to go with so we will focus very much on ourselves. If we do everything well then, hopefully, we should come out with a positive result.”