Under-21s' head coach reflects upon final league outing and season in general
Having seen his side end their league campaign with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday on Monday afternoon, Under-21s’ head coach Iain Brunskill praised his players for their professionalism and hard work not only against the Owls, but throughout the season as a whole.
Finishing sixth in the U21 Professional Development League 2 table with 37 points accrued from their 30 outings this term, the club’s youngsters lost just once in their final five games to finish above Leeds, Crewe, Coventry City, the Owls and Barnsley respectively.
And reflecting upon the result against their Hillsborough counterparts, Brunskill was delighted with his team’s efforts in Sheffield.
“It was a very pleasing result for us,” he said. “We’d said to the lads before the game that with it being our last league outing, it would be pleasing if we could round it off with a win and we got that.
“We controlled the game all the way through, although we were a little limited in terms of the way we could attack given the nature of the match and how we scored our goals which was via two penalties.
“Overall though, it was very pleasing for us and I think the lads were probably a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a larger scoreline at the final whistle.”
Casting an eye over the Whites’ youngsters’ exploits throughout 2015/16 meanwhile, Brunskill stressed that although pleased with his players from a game perspective, the main highlight for him has been the progression of many names into the club’s first team ranks.
“As much as I’ve enjoyed the season, at the end of the day, our job here is to look at these players as a development group and to help them make the next step up which is to the first team level.
“You look and you ask if that has been achieved and when you look at the first team, you can see that it has. We’ve had a number of youngsters move into the mix and of course, you look at Rob Holding as the stand-out figure for the current campaign.
“He started the season with my group and he’s developed and done very well to play a lot of games this year.
“From there, you’ve also got Kaiyne Woolery who has been in the mix for the most-part whereas towards the end of the year, with the situation being as it has been, Jimmy Phillips has looked at the younger players and given them a chance to prove themselves.”
He continued: “From that point of view, it has been a successful year on our side of things plus we’ve managed to finish sixth in the league table alongside for the most part be the better side in the majority of games.
“Sometimes, it’s easy to look at our teams and think that they’re experienced as a number of them have been in and around the first team, but in reality they’re still only around 19 or 20 years of age.
“I think the players have shown a lot of different sides to themselves in terms of their development too and we’ve won games through both possession based and nitty-gritty play.
“It’s our job ultimately to prepare them for that next step and by giving them these different scenarios to deal with, we hope that we are doing.”
Finally, with a Manchester FA Senior Cup semi-final tie with Manchester City to come next Tuesday evening, the youngsters' coach hopes that his side can round off a fruitful campaign with a flourish by replicating their previous efforts against their Etihad counterparts back in August of last year.
"It's definitely a good game to end the year on," he explained. "It’s a different match to what they've been used to all season and it will certainly be a test for us, but we’ll provide something different that City don’t see every week.
"It’s a good opportunity for the lads to show their abilities against a good group of players and we're looking forward to it."
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