Brighton & Hove Albion under-21 coach Simon Ireland says his side are growing in confidence as they get to grips with playing in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League Division Two for the first time.
Results have not always gone Albion’s way, with only one win so far this season, but there have been many signs of encouragement against some high-quality opposition, according to the under-21 coach.
He told seagulls.co.uk, “It’s definitely been a step up for the boys in terms of the quality of the opposition played and we knew that would be the case.
“All the teams we play in the category one games programme, even though it’s split between divisions one and two, have been in the Premier League.
“They’ve all had that massive investment which the Premier League brings and a lot of them have invested it in their youth programmes.
“When we played West Brom, they had Silvestre Varela in the starting line-up, who scored for Portugal against USA at the World Cup.
“It’s a good challenge for the players to embrace and certainly not one to shy away from. If you come off the pitch and know that you’ve played well individually against an international player, then you’ve got to gain confidence from that in terms of how you have done and with your own ability to deal with that situation.”
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Ireland is starting to see the gradual improvements in his side and believes that the players are setting themselves high standards going into every game.
“We’ve come away from each game thinking we probably should’ve got a little more in terms of a result. I know that we beat Derby [1-0] and drew with Wolves [1-1], but we had an opportunity at the back end of that game to possibly win it.
“In the West Brom game we were disappointed to lose 2-1. The lads were disappointed in the dressing room afterwards, yet you look at the team West Brom had out and it was very experienced.
“It shows that the players are setting themselves high standards each week. They’re working hard off the pitch and we are starting to see better performances from individuals as they steadily progress on it.”
Glen Rea and Shamir Fenelon have also progressed from the under-21s to the fringes of the first-team and the under-21 coach insists that this must be the ultimate aim going forward.
“My only aim is to try and get lads into the first team and that’s got to be their aim as well really. By the end of the season we want to get one or two more lads into that first-team training squad or on the bench.
“It was good early on in the season with Shamir being there and Glen was given the chance to travel away with the first team for the two games against Birmingham and Leeds. He was with them and that’s the goal for me, nothing more than that. It’s all about developing individuals to aid the first team.”