Exeter City’s Under-18s have enjoyed a constructive first week back in training as the scholars reported back to the Cliff Hill Training Ground for the start of their preparations for the new 2023/2024 season.
A successful U18s campaign last season saw several members of that squad go on to earn professional deals, however, for the club's Academy, ECFC’s Under-18s Lead Coach, Tom Donati, directed his focus on his new group of players as they got straight into some pre-season work following their rest and recovery over the summer break.
“The boys have been in a week now,” explained Donati. He added, “Last Sunday the first-years had their induction, and then we’ve been through our testing with the players, both physically, and with their movement, and they’ve now had a full week’s training under their belts.
“The integration with the new players has been good, and the group, collectively, have come together. We have had three trialists in with us as well this week, and, after the first two days, I think the boys were feeling it. But I wanted them to get a real feel of what it was like being in a full-time professional environment, and, in truth, they have been training well in spells.”
The first pre-season week for the scholars ended with an exhibition game against Burton Albion on Sunday, and, although the Grecians ended up on the wrong side of the result, Donati was left relatively satisfied with what he saw from his players.
“It was a close game. We grew into it after the first quarter of an hour, but we conceded twice early on through some individual errors which put us on the back foot. We managed to get a grip on things after 20 minutes by controlling possession, and showed off a positive mindset and a bit of what we had worked on during the week.
“There were some good performances, and some big efforts from the players. We scored two goals, but conceded three times so we have got to improve on that. Pre-season is all about getting minutes out of the boys, and it provides a good chance to get the cobwebs out of the system. There were a couple of new things I asked of the group, but they took to it well, and it was a shame really that some errors took something away from what was a good performance generally.”
But as week one drew to a close, that meant the start of the competitive season edged a little closer. Donati will undoubtedly use the past seven days as a starting block to build from, and he shared what is in the pipeline for the U18s for their second week of pre-season preparation.
“This week we did a bit of everything with the boys which was largely pitch-based stuff alongside some analysis as well, but next week we will look for the boys to build up their cohesion. They will be off on Monday, before an event on Tuesday where the boys will be away for the day developing their teamwork.
"We play Bristol City on Saturday which will be another good challenge for us. So overall it should be another good, hard-working week for us, with the boys starting to get used to the full-time training regime.”