Exeter City’s Under-18s coach, Chad Gribble, admitted his players were looking forward to returning to league action following their break from competitive matches due to the squad's recent COVID-19 setbacks.
This past fortnight has seen a number of the youth team link up with Dan Green and his Under-23s side for their latest round of cup ties with Plymouth Argyle and Swansea City, ahead of this coming Saturday, which will see the U18s play their first fixture in the Youth Alliance South West division since 13th August.
But Gribble explained that it isn’t just those players that featured in the Premier League Cup that have been preparing themselves for this coming weekend with match minutes, with other members of the Under-18s squad getting involved in a behind closed doors friendly game during the week.
“Firstly, the Swansea match was the priority, and so it meant the Under-18s and the Under-23s all trained together. They had a good preparation session together, and good work was put in during that time, and it provided a good experience for the boys to be in amongst Dan Green and the older players,” said Gribble.
“The boys who started on Tuesday evening against Swansea, and the boys who were brought on all got a good amount of exposure, and I was quite pleased to see the Under-18s contribute to the cup tie.
“It is important we look to continue doing that. Harry Lee, Alfie Pond and Sonny Cox all started, but they, like the rest of the players had to earn their opportunity. I think for them, and for the younger pros like Jack Veale and Nelson Iseguan, what helped them was the run we had in the Youth Alliance Cup last season, and that put them in good stead and helped them handle the occasion. The Swansea match was another successful day for the Academy, but what is important is that we will continue to push these players because our aim is for them to start for the first team in the future.”
“We took the remainder of the U18s group that weren’t involved on Tuesday, as well as some players from the Under-16s, to Millfield School near Street, and played a friendly against an Under-19s side. It meant that everyone has played some sort of football ahead of this weekend. A match always feels different, and you can’t replicate that game feeling in training. There were some sloppy moments in the game, but that was to be expected, and hopefully, that will mean that there will be a reduction in untidy moments on Saturday, and we will cut the sloppy bits out of our game.
“The friendly game was perfect preparation for us, but we know that Saturday's match against Cheltenham will be a different ball game. Obviously, they will be a stronger opponent, and they will have played three more league matches than us, but we’ll know exactly where we are during the opening 20 minutes of Saturday's contest.