Tuffley Rovers looking to bridge gap to First Team with new look Development set up

Tuffley Rovers will be looking to build on a strong start to 2019, as they announce the formation of their new look Development set up at Glevum Park this season. 

A year ago the club confirmed that Ken Blackburn would be joining the club as Head of Football Development and after a season of assessing the club from top to bottom, Rovers can now implement a new era for player development under Blackburn’s watchful eye.

“Although we’ve seen some really positive developments over the past few seasons, I’ve had a real sense that our first team has become increasingly separated, in terms of playing quality, from the rest of our squads”, said Chairman/Secretary Neil Spiller.

“With that in mind, last season I asked Ken Blackburn to join the club, bringing with him a wealth of experience, both of the game in general, but also what it takes to ensure that player development becomes an integral part of a club’s plans.

Despite our second team achieving a solid league position last season, I felt that we needed to shift the balance from one focused on results, to one where player development was our paramount concern”, Spiller confirmed.

Blackburn joined the club after overseeing nearly 20 years of development at Gloucester City – before leaving the club last summer and he believes he can still make a difference within the local game.

“Having been with Gloucester city for 19 years, and having managed teams in over 700 games I felt I still had something to offer, and when Neil approached with the role he had in mind for me I was more than happy to come on board, and hopefully give them the benefit of my experience”, Blackburn said.

“The backbone of any successful club is its youth and reserve teams, and with Tuffley Rovers already having a well-established youth section, we felt the need for the Under 18s to come under the main club umbrella helped create a clear pathway through to the first team.

This will be a development squad incorporating both the Reserves and Under 18s players, so with this in mind I was able to bring some new coaches to the club, whom have the same mindset as what we are trying to achieve, developing young players. They are focused on improving players, rather than adding to their personal CV.”

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One of the aspects of the new set up sees the Reserve side become a Development side and will be lead by Mike Palmer. Palmer, who is UEFA B qualified, makes no secret of his ambition to be successful in the adult game, with an eye on managing at first team level, but he regards that as a long-term goal and is, for now, focused on continuing his success in developing young players.

“I want to offer something different to Tuffley Rovers, creating a squad that will be full of energy, playing an exciting brand of football. If I can offer a different style of coaching that will not only develop the group of players I’ll start working with, but help build better relationships with those coming through our youth section”, Palmer said.

“My focus is 100% on developing the best players we can, so that they can become candidates for the first team.”

Palmer will be assisted in managing the Development Squad by Ash Evanson, who is also a UEFA B qualified coach with another impressive CV, having spent ten years coaching at clubs including Gloucester City, Cheltenham Town and Bristol Rovers. He got to know Palmer whilst they were both at Gloucester City and didn’t hesitate in taking the opportunity to link up with him again.

Rovers have also made changes at U18s level, by keeping together manager Jamie Hyett and assistant Chris Ravenhill ahead of the new season. The duo will be joined by first team player Sam Hill, who will help coach the side in their new league.

Sam Hill (right) has been added to the U18s coaching set up joining Chris Ravenhill (left) & Jamie Hyett (centre)

The U18s side confirmed earlier in the summer that they would be moving into the Gloucestershire Floodlit Youth League after a tough season in the Midland Floodlit Youth League.

“I have to confess that this is the most excited I’ve been going into a new season”, said Hyett. “The chance to work with a new group of coaches is great for me personally, but we have a new group of players and I can’t wait to the fantastic squad we’ve assembled in action.”

Hill, who made 31 appearances for the club in the last Hellenic League season, is equally enthusiastic at the opportunity to start on his new role.

“I personally can’t wait to get the season started. I helped with the Under 18s two years ago, but this is a different beast!

We ooze professionalism this year and its exciting to be surrounded by so many motivated coaches and players. I intend to complete my Level 2 this year and sharpen up my non-league experience with a bit of quality coaching. A lot of our squad have been released from clubs and I know how that feels, so I want to help produce the future of non-league football.” Hill added.

There is one further addition to the coaching set-up, with Craig Darkin joining as a goalkeeping coach and he is another new recruit who demonstrates the value of Blackburn’s appointment, having previously worked with him at City, too.

Blackburn was keen to reflect on Tuffley Rovers’ own continuing development, as they have been confirmed as Gloucestershire County Women’s League participants for the first time, following the League AGM last week.

“We have also started a new women’s team, playing at the ground on Sunday afternoons, which has already attracted players to what has become one of the fastest growing sports. With the Women’s World Cup now underway this will potentially create even more interest in the game. I would like for Tuffley Rovers to be more than just a football club, but where people of all abilities can come and use the facilities, in a nice friendly safe atmosphere.”