POCKLINGTON Town have launched a development squad to build on a strong 2013/14 season for the club's under-19 team.
The Balk youngsters finished halfway up last term's tough Northern Alliance table and coach Kevin Graham wants to carry on his commitment to developing teenage talent during the coming months.
From last season’s team, two players went on to play Northern Counties East League senior football with Dan O’Connor turning out for Pickering and Selby, where he was joined by Steve Beilby, who also had a spell at Tadcaster.
This year, Graham’s ranks will be bolstered by the promotion of several players from the club’s York & District Minor League Cup final-winning U16 team, whose manager Joe Cooney will join a six-strong team of coaches for the development squad.
Three of Cooney’s team have since gone on to earn apprenticeships at professional clubs with his son Rob joining Sam Jefferson at York City, while Liam Neal has joined Chesterfield as a scholar.
Pocklington’s U19s kicked off their pre-season with a 5-0 defeat to their full-time Minstermen counterparts and, on his decision to launch a development squad, former Guernsey international coach Graham said: “We had an overview at the end of the season and have decided to run a development squad for all of the club's 16 to 19-year-olds.
“Joe Cooney has joined us in the development squad now and will manage the U18s and there will be six of us coaching a group of about 30 lads. We work on technical development and all the boys will get the same level of coaching whether they are playing or not.
“We focus on different strategies of play when the team are in possession and out of it.”
Pocklington’s achievements are starting to receive recognition with Graham’s side finishing above the junior teams of higher-profile, neighbouring clubs last season.
On the team’s 2013/14 efforts, he added: “Everyone in the club thought we would struggle last season because we had lost seven or eight good players and we were weakened but we are all about development here. If we can move players who might be 5/10s up to 7/10, we will do that.
“It also takes a bit of time for lads to make the step up from playing district youth football to more competitive stuff against teams like Goole, Scarborough and Pickering. We finished fifth in the league out of eight teams having finished bottom during three of the previous four seasons.
“Two step-seven teams - Goole and Glasshoughton - finished below us and we beat everyone in the league other than Pickering. The lads worked hard and showed a lot of character and I was happy with what we achieved.”
Outlining his targets for the coming campaign, Graham ventured: “I would like to see improvement next season. That's not necessarily in terms of league performance but more in relation to developing individuals.
“Results will come naturally if players improve and we want to improve the mindset of players because that can be more important than technical development.”
Graham will also continue not to stand in the way of any players ready and willing to try their luck at the semi-professional, senior grade, explaining: “I have links with Andy Foster at Bridlington and Paul Marshall at Tadcaster and won't hesitate to recommend players to them or to our first team in the Humber Premier League.
“It’s a case of every youngster finding their level and fulfilling their potential.”