Wilkins hoping Cinderford Town U18s can lead club’s development this season

Cinderford Town U18s manager Rich Wilkins believes his side have a great chance to kick start the Foresters’ development for the next two years, with a Reserve side looking to be rolled out in the not so distant future. 

Talking to Severn Sport ahead of the U18s trial events on Thursday 13th & 20th June, Wilkins told Severn Sport he can’t wait to get started.

“We’re really excited about next season and to be honest we’re pretty keen to get going.  We ran an open training session on the first team pitch at the beginning of May and the turn out and quality on show was really high and we were delighted that a few players we were keen to get on board committed to us straight after that session including 3 of last season’s Under 18s who played first team football at 16 years old. 

We’ve also got commitments from lads who have been playing Hellenic League and Academy football in Wales. We had around 26 at the open session but since then we’ve had a lot more interest including players who’ve been playing Floodlit Under 18s football for the past 12 months so that bodes really well for the season. 

We’ve even had Paul Michael offering first team football to one of the boys so that shows the standard we are looking at.” Wilkins said.

With Wilkins looking to build a side worthy of bringing through talent into the first team at Southern League level, he is also looking to bring together a side with competition for places during the 2019/20 season.

“We’re looking for players with ambition and a commitment to what we are trying to build, I want to spend the season having our Under 18 players asking me when they will be getting opportunities with the first team because that will show hunger and ambition.

Style wise, the logical step is for us to mirror the formation and playing style that Paul and Smudge have instilled in the firsts, they’ve achieved great success this season and probably play the best football in the league so it’s an obvious system to replicate.  Paul has a lot of interest in the youth sides at the club and is always available for a chat, and that’s a conversation we will be having in the not too distant future I’m sure.” Wilkins added.

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Cinderford are looking to add a Reserve team into the fold for the 2020/21 season, meaning that this season’s U18s will be looking to progress through into the new side after a fruitful season this term and Wilkins believes the ambition shown by the Foresters will only benefit the youth setup at the club.

“I believe a reserve team is the next logical step at the club and following discussions with Stuart Tait and the committee, they agreed.  There are big plans at the club with the redevelopment of the stadium and a new 4G pitch just around the corner, and that will enable the club to sustain a lot more football.

From a personal point of view, I have ambitions of coaching at as high a level as possible and the opportunity to lead a reserve team at Cinderford Town in 2020/21 is something I’m very keen to do.   Our plans are to develop this under 18 side and apply to the Hellenic league the following year.

As with all Under 18 sides, the ultimate aim has to be to progress youth players in to the first team and while we have done that the past few years, the jump from youth football to Southern League football is a big one.  The formation of a reserve side and eventually a 3rds/4ths etc can only benefit the club and help retain those players who come through our youth system. 

Development isn’t linear and different players develop at different speeds; we can’t expect every player to come through straight into the first team but by creating a pathway we can give them every opportunity to reach that level.
Hopefully the additional draw of reserve team football in 12 months will attract more ambitious players to the club.”

Cinderford will be looking to bring through the next generation of talent to come out of the Forest of Dean, after Luke and Keiran Thomas coming through the ranks locally before playing for Derby County and Hereford respectively. Wilkins believes that there is plenty of talent to come out of the Forest and with the amount of the clubs in the area, feels that the future looks good.

“We believe that there is plenty of talent in the area, youth football has jumped forward massively in the time I’ve been involved with the club, not only with Cinderford but in the Forest of Dean as a whole.  There’s a lot more clubs than there ever has been and that has to be good for the long-term development of players in the area.

Luke and Kieran are examples of what can be achieved and while most players won’t reach the level of Luke, it would be great to see more local players playing Southern League and Hellenic football.  I’ve no doubt that Keiran will get the opportunity to be playing league football in the not too distant future as well.” Wilkins said.

Cinderford Town U18s will be playing in the Gloucestershire Floodlit League and Wilkins is hoping that the high level of competition in both the league and cup will help the development of his new side.

“Over the past few seasons’ we’ve helped to give Southern League debuts to quite a few players and our ambition for this season is to continue with that success.  We’ve entered the new Gloucestershire Floodlit League, which will be a real challenge with many of the best sides locally choosing to move from the Midland Floodlit League to this new league and we’d love to be at the top end of that.

We’ve also entered the FA Youth Cup and Glos FA County Cup so it would be great to sustain a league challenge and have a good run in the cups as well.”

For more information regarding trials from U8s to U18s, please visit the Cinderford Town Youth Website – https://www.cinderfordtownyouthfc.co.uk/trials/