MICK RAMSDEN cannot wait to “organise his own team” having taken the York City Knights under-20s reins – but he insists they must work to the same structures as the senior side in order to assist players who earn call-ups.
Huntington Stadium stalwart Ramsden is preparing for his first game in charge of the Knights’ second string, when they host their Halifax counterparts on Thursday night.
He will continue to work as an assistant coach with the first team but has taken the U20s helm from veteran player James Ford, who has become number two to boss Gary Thornton in the senior ranks.
The 42-year-old stressed, however, that while the aim is to turn his young guns into all-round better players, they will be taught the same playing patterns as the first team so they can fit straight in should they be called up for Championship One action.
“I’ve been assisting for the past few years and this (new role) gives me the chance to organise my own team and that’s a good thing for me to be doing this year,” said Ramsden, who joined the backroom staff after hanging up his boots in 2005.
“It will be the first time I’ve done that.
“We (the first team and U20s) have been training together since November and we’re at the point now where we’re starting to split the teams for some sessions.
“I’ll be planning my own sessions but will still be working closely with the first team. We will keep delivering the same sessions and coaching the same structures as the first team, which is important when it comes to helping the progression of players from my team to the first team.”
As revealed by The Press, the Knights, who finished third in the U20s Championship last year, have not entered a team into that merit league this year – largely because of travel costs to new outfits like Gloucester, Midlands and Cumbrian academies. They will instead try to arrange friendlies with the leading U20s outfits.
Ramsden hoped this plan would prove beneficial.
“It’s a difficult one,” he admitted. “There’s talk that several clubs have been entering U20s just to tick a box to be allowed promotion to Super League. There’s a feeling that some are doing it because they have to, and how much resources they put into it remains to be seen.
“We’re looking at organising as many friendlies as possible throughout the year while also focusing on the players’ development. We’ll be looking for the weeks when the better teams don’t have a fixture so we can arrange games then. Whether they will want to play remains to be seen but we’re working on it and we’ll see how it goes this year.
“As long as we can come up with a structure where we can get games and carry on with the development programme that the guys did really well last year – that will be good.
“The goal is to improve the lads to the point where they’re really pushing for a first-team spot.”
He added: “Halifax are in the U20s league this year and will be putting a team together to compete in that. It’s hard to say how strong teams will be – we’ll find out.”
A quartet of last year’s young guns – Stephen Batty, Ryan Parker, Adam Swift and Lennox Green – have now been added to the 2014 U20s ranks and are likely to feature on Thursday, along with team-mates from 2013 such as Adam Dent, James Morland and Scott Talbot.
First-team candidates such as newcomers Ryan Backhouse, Tom Rogers and Curtis Macdonald are also eligible for U20s action, while the Knights are likely to throw in a couple of over-age players too, such as Jack Iley and Sam Orange, who need game-time after injury.