Wanderers’ B Team has ended its first season with Head Coach Matt Craddock happy to reflect on a year of progress.
The Whites launched a specific B squad ahead of the 2022/23 campaign in a bid to better bridge the gap between Academy and first-team football.
The project remains a long-term one but after 30 fixtures against a variety of opposition – and valuable loan spells in non-league football for a number of the club’s young players – Craddock believes things are heading firmly in the right direction.
“As a first season, I think it was fantastic progress,” he said.
“We made the decision quite late on last season to go with the ‘B’ team project and we had to do a lot of work in a short space of time to make sure that we had everything up and running.
“The fact that we managed to get so many quality players through the door with such a hectic fixture schedule, as well as helping the first team when they needed it, I think is a real success in year one of the project. That now gives us a real platform to build on.
“We’ve put in some really good processes and now we’ve got time to reflect on those and go again next year.”
As well playing senior football out on loan, a number of the B Team have trained with Wanderers’ first-team squad and Academy graduates Sam Inwood, Noah Halford, Sonny Sharples and Wes Frimpong will all join the professional ranks next season.
Wanderers are also looking to recruit from outside to strengthen the squad and further develop a pathway for young players to, hopefully, make the grade at first-team level in the future.
“It’s not just going to happen in a short space of time. Youth development is a project and it happens over time,” added Craddock.
“Youth development can be messy, some days it can look really good and others it might not. But our job is to try and be consistent and put things in place to continually improve both ourselves and the players. Over time that should give us some really strong outcomes, but we’re just at the start of that journey.
“The variety of the games’ programme that we’ve had was a big thing because we played some real varied games where sometimes we’d be playing against first teams, sometimes it was matched up age-wise and sometimes it was against teams who were a lot more experienced than us.
“The number of games, as well as the loans we managed to support our players with, was pleasing and that also adds variety into their development.
“We’re learning every day too. We’ve got young staff and it’s a new project for me and Andrew Tutte, who has come in, and we’re all learning.
“It’s a project that is in between two camps, because you’ve got the first team on one side and the Academy on the other, so we needed to navigate that in the best way that we could.
“We’ve learned, as staff, what works and what we need to improve on to make the processes even better next year.”
While the B Team staff have worked hard on the training ground with their young charges, the influence of the Whites’ senior players in and around Lostock has also been key.
As well as winning the Papa Johns Trophy, Ian Evatt’s side has extended its season into a play-off challenge and given those hoping to follow in their footsteps something to aspire to.
“The first team this year have been a fantastic inspiration on and off the pitch,” said Craddock (above).
“The group are a brilliant group of players and individually, they’re all really good people. They support us as staff and players and hold high standards.
“When they work, they do it properly and they’re the sort of role models we need. Thankfully, the work they do, and the standards that they hold, have given them the chance to get promoted this year and hopefully they can get it over the line.”