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Academy

Cook reflects on August for the U18s

3 September 2021

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Academy manager Tony Cook has been impressed by the work of Rovers’ U18s coaching staff and players.

Former Rovers forward Gary McSheffrey replaced Paul Stancliffe as U18s manager this summer, and Cook has been impressed by the 39-year-old's work to date. 

He said: “I’m pleased with how Gary’s been working and his professionalism in terms of his attitude towards how he communicates to the players and his desire for them to better every day. He really pushes them to improve.

“From his perspective he’s been happy with how he has been challenged and how he has set high standards on and off the pitch.

“Head of Academy sports science Dan Solts has set a really good programme this year and his attention to detail in the reports he’s given back to us is second to none.

“Luke Gray has just come in as Head of the Academy medical department and added another angle to that department. He is very professional and methodical in everything he does.

“Matt our analyst who looks at the opposition and helps with training.

“Gary determines everything he wants from the team and they work collaboratively throughout the week.”

During the month of August the U18s won two and lost two of their opening games across all competitions. Cook has been impressed by the start given the pre-season disruption due to players having to isolate in accordance with Government and EFL regulations around COVID-19. 

He added: “Results have been up and down but I’m not too concerned about that when you look at the two defeats we have had in context. Against Bolton we had a few U16s and a couple of second years starting.

“We will be making sure development vs winning is married up. Our mantra this year is to spend more time with the individual player, which we have started to do with mentor groups. Each player in the U18s is assigned a full-time mentor from our coaching staff. Their mentors can talk about anything with them in confidence from football to their personal lives. But it is there to support their wellbeing."

Academy staff have worked hard during the summer to implement new programmes which are aimed at protecting the wellbeing of the U18 players. 

He added: “The start of the season has been a little bit indifferent because we’re trying to challenge the team a little bit differently. If they perform well in training then they will get the shirt, we’re not just handing out shirts to second year scholars for the sake of it. They need to work for their place in the team.

“We are trying to change the culture and mentality. Be the best you can be and hopefully that will keep your shirt.

“The playing identity we’re trying to instil in the players is coming into show. Sometimes getting an identity can put results at risk in terms of us playing out from the back and building through the thirds so sometimes that can go against you.

“We have settled on a formation which is consistent with the first-team. Now we’re starting to work heavily on players with individual patterns of play to strengthen our identity.”

More updates from Tony Cook over the month of August:


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