Gary Dicker has been delighted with the start his under-18s have made to the season and believes that it’s down to the setup within the academy.
Our academy players regularly get opportunities to train with the first team, while the pathway to first team action saw six academy graduates make their senior debut last season.
“We had one or two players training with the first team last week which was brilliant,” Dicker said. “You don’t usually get a 16-year-old training with the first team, let alone at a Premier League club.
“The pathway and the way the club is run, we have that continuity between the under-18s, the under-21s and the first team which is second to none, it’s the best I have seen at any level. The first team coaches trust in the players they have in the building first, they trust us to get on with our jobs and ask for our opinion.”
The 36-year-old is in his first full season as a coach and feels like he is really developing in his role.
“It’s been a massive difference for myself. For the first six months I was just discussing and learning things, because you’re not quite sure how you want to go about things just yet.
“Pre-season is so important and we covered everything we wanted to do. Getting your point across in pre-season is really important, it was a lot better than coming in midway through the season like I did last year. It’s been great to get to know the players and what they’re like.
“Apparently [under-18 midfielder] Joe Knight does a great impression of me, but they all understand my accent now!
“I am quite lucky that I am fresh out of the game, I use that to my advantage. Sometimes I do find myself going ‘why did I say that? I hated that as a player!’ There’s stuff I have learned from my different managers over the years. I try and implement the good stuff as much as possible.”
The under-18s began their Premier League South campaign with a 2-0 victory over Fulham on Saturday, with an own goal and a Joshua Duffus penalty ensuring Albion took home all three points.
“It was a really good performance,” Gary continued. “We’ve taken our form from pre-season into the league. I am really happy with the group, even the boys who weren’t playing have been just as important as they’ve pushed the boys on who have been starting.
“For me it was a mature performance, they controlled the game well which we didn’t always do last season. It was against a good Fulham team as well, it was a good start.”