Brighton & Hove Albion under-23 coach Simon Rusk believes the variety of matches his players are facing is providing great experience for both himself and the team, as they turn their attention towards Lewes in the Sussex Senior Cup.
The Seagulls visit The Dripping Pan tonight to start their defence of the trophy, following last season’s 2-1 victory against Crawley Town in the final at the Amex Stadium.
Albion then travel to MK Dons in the Checkatrade Trophy next week, looking to seal progression to the knockout stages, and Rusk touched upon the learning curve created through playing in numerous competitions.
He said, “If you weigh up the last few weeks, we’re going from playing Benfica’s under-23s to a top-of-the-table clash against Everton’s under-23s, to playing away at Lewes against a side that will give us a really hard game.
“You then mix it up again and go into another game against League Two opponents, so you have to be flexible and it’s great for the players to understand different types of football at different levels.
“There’s a different demand that comes with that — some games will be more tactical than others and some games you have to roll your sleeves up and dig in. It’s quite diverse the types of games we have at the minute.
“That’s brilliant from our point of view and it’s also brilliant for me as a coach to have to bounce into different games with the players.
“One thing I always say to the lads is that I’m in it with them. I’m learning too, and we all try to have that mentality in the under-23s. We’re all learning together and doing our best.”
The Seagulls have made a positive start to their Premier League 2 Division 1 campaign, but Rusk commented further on the different challenges cup competitions provide throughout the season.
“There are merits to all different types of games. If we’re playing a very technical under-23 Benfica team, then obviously we’ve got to step up to that technical and tactical challenge.
“There are games such as the one away to Luton, where we came up against a more physically-equipped, older team and you have to fight and hang on to stay in the game.
“Every game offers a different set of challenges and it’s just about making sure the players learn from them and make themselves better players as a result.”