The under-18’s have returned to pre-season training in preparation for the upcoming 2020/21 Youth Alliance season.
Danny Ventre’s side were sitting sixth in the Youth Alliance table before their season was curtailed due to COVID-19 back in March, and since then it has been a very busy few months for the Academy.
A handful of players departed the Club after the expiration of their contracts, Cameron Antwi signed a professional contract with Neil Critchley's first-team and the under-18’s made a flurry of new signings.
Like any new season, there is always a sense of excitement surrounding the start of the new campaign, but after such a long layoff, under-18’s boss Danny Ventre is thrilled to be back.
“It’s brilliant to be back on the grass,” he said.
“It’s been a very long time off the pitch for the players and staff. It’s always good to get back in for pre-season, see everybody again and start work on improving from the previous campaign.”
One noticeable change within the youth setup, is the number of signings the Academy has made. Recruitment for the under-18’s is something the Club has pushed this season, and Ventre is pleased with how they have gone about their business.
“I am very pleased with how we have recruited this season,” Ventre explained.
“It’s an area we want to improve on as a Club, and we have received amazing support from Simon Sadler and the Board with that this summer.
“We started the process early, and it was a good job we did as everything was closed down due to COVID-19 shortly after we offered scholarships out. It’ll be exciting to see how the new players adapt to life at Blackpool Football Club.”
As well as a tough few weeks back in training for the side, there is also a settling-in period the new additions must go through, something Ventre recognises.
“I’m not just saying this, but every player has come back really strong and their application has been top draw,” he said.
“It is still hard to say how the new lads have settled in as everything is new to them, but what I’ve seen from them has been brilliant. They come in smiling, even after hard sessions and they all seem to carry themselves well in terms of their manner and character.”
In addition to the signings on the field, the Club appointed Ciaran Donnelly as Academy Director last week, with the 36-year-old returning to the club for his second spell within the Club’s youth setup.
“It’s great to see Ciaran back,” Ventre said.
“He initially gave me my first role at the Club in the foundation phase. I’ve since worked through various roles since Ciaran left, so hopefully, he will see how much I’ve come on as a coach in the coming season.
“I’m going to tap into Ciaran as much as I can, as I need to learn and be challenged. I’m in no doubt he will do that and develop me as a person and as a coach.
“On the back of all that, it shows that the Club is really investing in the Academy now, so it’s up to me and the staff to repay that and produce players for our first-team.”
Despite the challenges COVID-19 has brought to training and matchdays, everyone is hopeful of a successful season for the under-18’s. Whilst Ventre is excited to see how his side progress this season, he knows it is too early to get ahead of himself and start setting targets so early in pre-season.
“I’ve not set any targets yet. My aim now is to focus on getting the players as fit and as strong as possible, ready for that first game of the season.
“We need to drill our standards into the new players and work from there. It will take time to get to where we want to be as there is so much to do, but we can’t flood young players with loads of material and expect them to turn into a top player a week later.
“There’s a lot of competition in the squad now, so hopefully, that pushes everyone on, and the standard rises.
“I’m excited to see how we fare in games, but for me, it’s how the players develop along the way and how we get them to where they want to be, which is to have a place in the first-team.”