KEVIN Hodges will take his young team of Pilgrims to Elburton Villa on Wednesday night as Argyle’s stars of the future kick-off the club’s pre-season programme.The first-team have their opening fixture next Tuesday, July 15, at Tavistock, but Argyle leading appearance maker Hodges, who is now Academy Manager, says that pre-season is just as crucial a time to those very much still learning their trade.
“The young players are no different to the senior players,” he said. “You want to play games, and this is an ideal opportunity. Obviously we are familiar with Elburton, and it’s a test for our young players to start playing against men, with the physicality of everything, so it will be a good challenge.
“The boys have only been back a week, so it is quite early, but the lads come back now with relatively good fitness levels – not like years ago.”
As the first-team squad continues to take shape, there are likely to be opportunities for younger players to augment the line-ups of their senior counterparts. Last year, Ryan Lane, of note, scored for Argyle’s first team against Milton Keynes during a pre-season friendly. Lane – who after suffering an injury last season should be back in full training ‘within few weeks’ according to Kevin – will miss out on the short trip to Elburton, but splenty of others have their chance to shine.
Kevin said: “That’s what the aim is, as part of the youth development. Young players will get opportunities to play, whether that’s with the youth team or in training, during their time with the club they will get opportunities to be involved with the first team. That could be training, or a pre-season fixture, and it is down to individuals to take these opportunities.
“Obviously we guide and support them along the way, but it is down to the young players to take their opportunities, as Ryan (Lane) did last year.”
River Allen and Aaron Bentley are two youngsters who have made the step from the Academy to the senior ranks, each signing professional forms during the summer. Naturally, Kevin is proud of their progress, and says that their hard work is really only just beginning.
“You always want to see young players progress,” he said, “and River and Aaron have earned their right to be where they are. As we stressed to them at the end of the season, it is only just starting again for them, really. Now that they have got into the pro ranks, it is all about getting themselves established and impressing the manager, and hopefully at some stage, getting an opportunity.
“We must not forget Ben Purrington as well, because he is from the same year group. He signed his pro contract at 17, and last year he was given the opportunity of playing first team football, and did very well. It’s exciting times for everyone.”
Kevin’s young Argyle side take on Elburton at Haye Road on Wednesday, July 9. The game will kick off at 7pm.
Callum Hall, Andrew Hannah, Mason Hughes, Tom Moxham, Louis Rooney, Will Sargent, Jack Calver, Cory Harvey, Liam Knowles, Jake Miller, Billy Palfrey, Jamil Roberts, Ben Steer, Jason Vincent, Callum Thompson, Jordan Bentley, Kieran Bishop, Tyler Tonkin, Dan Rooney, Alex Fletcher.