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Match Previews

Academy season preview

17 August 2012

Looking back at events over the summer and looking forward to the new campaign.

Rovers' under 18s get their season underway this Saturday when they take on Norwich City at Brockhall.

Terry McPhillips side have had an eventful pre-season with plenty of tough matches to go with the hard work that has been put in as preparation for the new campaign.

Returning at the beginning of July, the Academy had just over a week of hard graft at Brockhall before the coaches took the lads up to Scotland for a few days.

"We had a good first week here and then at the end of the second week we went to Scotland and had a training camp up there," explained McPhillips. "Staying at a lovely hostel in Linlithgow just outside Edinburgh.

"It wasn't just a hostel it was an activity centre based next to Linlithgow Palace with a big loch. It was a two-mile run around the loch so we had the lads up running around the loch every morning at 6.30am.

"They did kayaking, mountain biking, spinning in the local leisure centre and a core session with some tutors in the leisure centre which was good. We had them running up and down mountains.

"We also took them to a driving range for some golf, clay pigeon shooting and of course we played football. Then we had some social time as well as we took them to Edinburgh on the last night for some sightseeing and shopping.

"It was a really good trip and it helped the lads to bond, really good value.

"So that was a good base of training, then at the end of the third week on the Friday we played Wigan Athletic, it was a good game which we shaded 1-0.

"We then went down to Thurrock as they had invited us to come down and play them. We had kept in touch since we met them in the FA Youth Cup last season, and a couple of their coaches had been up to watch some training, so they then offered us the chance to go down in pre-season to play on their pitch against their first team.

"As I'd been down to their place to watch them last season I thought it was a beautiful little ground, so it was a no-brainer to take them down.

"We lost that game 2-1 against their first team, Mark Stimson their manager was very welcoming. It was a hard game for the lads, it was played at a good tempo on a hot evening. We lost but the feedback from the lads was that they enjoyed it.

"On our return we did well against Hartlepool, Macclesfield and Carlisle, but didn't do well against Preston when we struggled to adjust to the conditions.

"Then we finished our games with a match against a decent Coventry City side where we did well but narrowly lost 2-1.

"So pre-season has gone well for us, we've had some good trips, good bonding and some good games. We've had a few niggly injuries, Young Yeray Torres got injured in training with a problem with his knee cap, so he looks like he'll be the longest one out which is disappointing because he had looked so good."

Now looking forward to the new campaign, the Academy coach knows that it will be a hard act to follow after last season's hugely successful year.

The under 18s reached the final of both the FA Youth Cup and the Academy League, so there are some big boots to fill.

"I think everybody has to keep their feet on the ground," added McPhillips.

"It is almost a brand new group, there aren't too many in the group this season that were involved in the big games last year. So now it is the chance for those second years to show what they can do. Whether that is with us or up with Gary.

"Plenty of our second years have started well and already with the Reserves which is what we all want."

The format of the Academy Leagues differs slightly this season as it ties in with the same opponents that the Reserves will be playing, with McPhillips predicting that it will be as tough as ever.

"It'll have an impact for our lads because we've now got four overnight stays before Christmas. Last season we only stayed overnight against MK Dons.

"It'll have it's positives and it's negatives. A negative will be the travelling on the Friday.

"We've Norwich City, Arsenal, West Ham United and Reading so they are all distances. So it'll be different for us, we'll just get on with that.

"The exciting bit is playing these new teams to play the likes of Arsenal, West Ham, Reading, teams that have a really good youth development programme.

"It is a tough group, I certainly don't think it has got any easier, then we have good teams we've played before in Bolton, Everton and West Bromwich Albion.

"It'll be hard, there are no overage outfield players, you are allowed an under 19 goalkeeper so it'll just be under 18s. So that might give more scope for us to give a taste to some under 16s as well.

"So these are exciting times and we'll have to see how these changes affect us all.

"We've a good set of lads, we'll have a good go at it, they'll all get a chance, it is exciting for us and we'll see how far we go."

The match against Norwich City takes place at the Senior Training Centre at Brockhall this Saturday is 11am, all supporters are welcome.

See the 2012-13 Academy Fixtures here.

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