City's academy boss speaks after Plymouth successEXETER CITY academy manager Simon Hayward has congratulated the club's youth products on their involvement in Saturday's Devon derby win over Plymouth Argyle.
Ryan Harley's double handed the bragging rights to the Grecians at Home Park, but there were several understories making up the day's narrative, not least with Jamie Reid and Ollie Watkins excelling after making surprise starts against the Pilgrims. Jordan Moore-Taylor, who also came through the ranks at the Cliff Hill Training Ground, captained the side, while this season's top-scorer Tom Nichols was also a part of the match-day squad.
"With Jordan, it's always very pleasing to see academy graduates in the first-team, but even more so when they get to wear the armband and lead the side," Simon said. "I've known Jordan since he was eight or nine years of age and he's always had that competitive spirit and a desire to win. I hope that he can stay fit, work on his game and improve as a player, helping our first-team to be successful and then, who knows what that might lead to for him in the future? We've got a good track-record with left-footed defenders!
"I'm so happy for Jamie Reid - he's had such a tough time with injuries for so long. Credit to Tis [City boss Paul Tisdale] for sticking with him and credit to Jamie as well. I have heard wonderful reports from lots of different people at Truro about how quickly he went in there and played at a very high level. It's the best example I've ever seen of a loan period working. We've pulled him back and put him in the team very quickly, but based on what people were saying, it seems like the right decision. Jamie has matured a lot since he was sixteen or seventeen, and again, if he stays fit, keeps working and improves himself as a player, hopefully he can become a regular contributor in the first-team, getting himself some goals and getting back onto the international scene with Northern Ireland.
"I was away in Swindon with our under-16s and under-18s this weekend, so I was disappointed to miss out on Ollie's full debut. It's always nice to see academy graduates make the step into the first-team and see how they do, so I am sorry that I missed it, but we are still working hard on bringing the next crop through. I'm looking forward to talking with Tis and Steve [Perryman] about how he did. I hear that he played in a midfield role, and it must have worked because he played ninety minutes and we won away at Argyle, who are top of the league. Although we do try to develop versatile players, Ollie won't have played a minute in midfield in the last five of his ten years with the academy, so I was surprised that he did so well.
"Credit to Tis for seeing something in him and for a game-plan that obviously worked at Home Park. Perhaps it's another sign that the versatility that we try to develop in players is a valuable asset at first-team level - not many players do what Grimesy [Matt Grimes] did and become a mainstay of the team so quickly after their debut, but hopefully this is another positive step for Ollie in fulfilling his potential. He's a great young lad, and I have high hopes for him.
"It's been nice to see Tom Nichols scoring some good goals recently," Simon added. "He was always a good finisher in the academy but I think that he has worked and improved that side of his game since he became a pro. He's another one with huge potential, and I hope that he keeps working to improve his all-round game, and makes himself the type of player that Tis can't live without regardless of the opposition or the type of match we're in. I hope that his goals fire us up the leage and into the play-off place this season."
That group of current Grecians were not the only academy success stories of yesterday - City product Sean Goss appeared on the bench for Manchester United as they won 2-0 at Watford in the Premier League. Though the 20-year-old didn't come off for the debut, Simon was proud of just how far that the German-born midfielder has come in such a short space of time.
"I am delighted to see that Sean is still progressing, and that a club of the size and stature of Manchester United has faith in him," Simon said. "He's competing with the likes of Michael Carrick, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin for a place in the United midfield, which sounds ridiculous, but he's a good player in his own right and if he keeps working and improving, then fingers-crossed his opportunity will come.
City are next in action away at Mansfield Town for Sky Bet League 2 action on Tuesday evening. Ticket info can be found here.