IT'S amazing to think there is less than two months to go until the end of the season.

We still have a lot of games to play and of course there is the future of the club to be decided but we have already started making preparations for next season.

It is at this time in the season the future of some of our second year and most of our third year trainees are decided.

We also make offers of scholarships to members of our under-16s who we feel have a chance of making the grade.

The decisions are made by head of youth development Paul Stancliffe, assistant youth coach Brian Neaves, myself, Adie Shaw and the chairman.

I am pleased to announce then that we have offered scholarships to seven youngsters - Gary Anderson, Adam Arthur, Kane Ashcroft, Steven Baines, Lee Grant, Bryan Stewart and David Stockdale. They now have 14 days to make up their minds.

Of our second year trainees, striker Luke Ibbetson, goalkeeper Mark Hampshire and defender Stuart Wise - who made his first team debut last weekend - will be kept on for their third and final year.

Unfortunately, we will not be retaining striker Danny Barry and winger Marvin Boyce after the end of the season.

Of our third year trainees, midfielder Leigh Wood and goalkeeper John Collinson have been given professional contracts.

Of the remaining third years, we have still to decide on striker Scott Emmerson, wingers Marc Salvati and Kieran Darlow and midfielder Ben Rhodes.

At some stage over the last 18 months all four have been out for quite some time with injury or illness and so we just want to give them a bit more time before coming to a decision. That will be done before the end of the season.

We have, however, decided we will not be offering a contract to central defender Peter Vasey.

Peter was another one out for a long spell in his second year but unfortunately he has not made the progression we would have hoped.

It is perhaps important to note that of the third year trainees only Peter has not yet appeared in the first team or at least the first team squad.

To have so many trainees having sampled first-team football is a great credit to the club and our youth programme.

They may not have played that many games in the first team but they have got in there on merit which will stand them in good stead.

As I have said many times this season, we have got a small squad and that means they will get an opportunity.

That has a knock-on effect. The more trainees you have in your first-team squad the more you will have in the reserves, whule your under-16s will be playing in the intermediates.

That is a lesson to parents who might think of letting their boys go to bigger, more glamorous clubs. They are more likely to get a chance of making the grade here than elsewhere. We are not frightened of giving youngsters a chance.

By the same token, we will not stand in the way of those players who prove themselves here first and then get the chance of playing at a higher level.

There are lessons to be learned for everyone, however. Leigh Wood and John Collinson, who have been offered contracts, will be delighted.

It is the next step up the ladder, but it is only the next step.

You always hope that a player who you give a contract to after a three-year scholarship is going to blossom.

But there is always the other side of the coin and Marc Thompson is an example of that. We gave him a contract a year before his scholarship was up and unfortunately he didn't develop as we had expected.

It is important that those who have been offered scholarships or a professional contract do not think they have made it.

In reality, it is only the beginning.

Updated: 10:50 Thursday, February 28, 2002