Academy Manager Praises Tour Of The NetherlandsCiaran Donnelly has hailed the youth team's time away in the Netherlands and says the trip has given him a valuable insight into his players.
The under-18s returned to Blackpool on the weekend following 13 days away on an Erasmus+ tour, in conjunction with the LFE, that resulted in three matches being played and several training sessions with Sparta Rotterdam.
"It was a fantastic trip and brilliantly organised by the LFE. It had the right mixture of training, games and trips out to take in some culture," Donnelly admitted.
"The games were really competitive and a really good standard, it was a great test for us because we were playing against under-19 teams. I got to spend two weeks with our players and I've learnt a lot about them, some good things and some not so good things.
"Spending that kind of time away with the lads has given me a really good insight to their characters, professionalism and general attitude to wanting to be a footballer."
The highlight of the trip came against FC Utrecht's under-19 side, who Blackpool beat 1-0 thanks to a dramatic late goal from Ralph Chea.
"We really did play as well as an under-18 team has played since I took on the duties of the under-18s over a year ago now. It was probably as good a single performance as I've seen," Blackpool's Academy Manager acknowledged.
"It was great to see the lads really step up to the plate, and that was one of the challenges I set them before the game. FC Utrecht finished fifth in the Eredivisie last season and their academy is renowned as one of the best ones. Everybody in the team played really well and some individuals really stepped up and showed me they have the talent and desire to get to that next level, which is what we are looking for."
Although Donnelly has no doubt picked up some tips from the cultural experience, he insists that the technical standard between the two countries isn't too dissimilar.
"Academies in England have moved forward in the last three or four years and we're doing very similar things to what Sparta Rotterdam presented to us. The EPPP in this country has helped academies move forward in this country and we're certainly on their level in terms of technical ability. I know the England national team had trouble in the summer, but that's more a mentality thing," he added.