Wanderers' Under-23s coach David Lee offers up his thoughts following a successful campaign for his young side
A man who is firmly part of the furniture here at Bolton Wanderers, Under-23s coach David Lee believes that the experiences of his young side throughout 2016/17 will prove to be the making of many of his players in the years to come.
Stepping into the head role last year after a lengthy stint with the club’s Under-18s side, Lee has guided Wanderers’ second string to the upper echelons of the U23 Professional Development League table.
They eventually finished third in the league standings, narrowly missing out on a play-off berth to their Hull City counterparts.
Speaking about his side’s efforts however, Lee could not be prouder of his players and the credentials they have shown.
“Last summer, we only had five or six recognisable Under-23s players, so it was a matter of building the younger players up, bringing trialists in and trying to get a blend,” he explained.
“What we’ve managed to do though is get that winning mentality into them and they all have that desire to improve – ultimately they all want to be in and around the manager’s first team.
“Sometimes, you have to take a risk where younger players are concerned – they may be on the periphery of making that step up, but sometimes you just need to throw them in at the deep end and see how they cope.
“A number of the Under-18s have done very well when they’ve been thrown into the mix with the Under-23s, but that’s all part and parcel – if they want to succeed, they have to show their mettle and worth at higher levels.
“Throughout the season, with the results that they’ve had, the players here have certainly shown that they are capable of it.
“It’s so important that they’re focused on winning games of football and the majority of the lads now have trained with the first team at some point throughout the season. When you’ve had a taste of that first team environment, you want it even more and that’s been the case for many of our boys this year.”
Lee also praised the support received by the club’s first team set-up, adding, “The manager has been superb with the lads too and it’s brilliant that we’re all on one site now here at Lostock – if the manager needs players for his squad, then he can call upon the younger lads.
“Phil Parkinson and Steve Parkin have been brilliant though at blending the youngsters into their first team squad – you only have to look at both Alex Perry and Jack Earing who were both handed their senior debuts this season to see that.
“The future is definitely bright for them and this is definitely the best set of staff we’ve worked with in terms of having that relationship across all age groups.
And finally, reflecting on his first full year as the Under-23s coach, the former winger said, “I’ve loved it – I’ve always wanted to make the step-up from Under-18s to that next level and when the manager came in and gave me the opportunity, I jumped at it.
“The manager and Steve Parkin have also given me the opportunity to work with them in first team training sessions which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.
“I’m lucky to be at a football club that wanted to give me the chance of progression and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s an exciting time to be at Bolton Wanderers and I’m looking forward to the future too.”
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