Darren Way

Academy Preview | Exeter City (A)

Sync Fixtures

Argyle’s Under-18 team are in action in a brand-new competition this Saturday.

The Young Pilgrims are taking part in the inaugural Under-18 Professional Development League Cup by virtue of their success last season, finishing second in the Youth Alliance League, then winning the Merit League.

The format of the Professional Development League cup sees a regionalised group of four teams – two Category 3 academies joining two from Category 2 – with the top two qualifying for a quarter-final stage.

Argyle have been drawn in Group E with Bristol City, Swansea City and, for their opening encounter this Saturday, Exeter City. The game kicks off at 11am.

Academy Manager Phil Stokes said: “It is important for us to enter competitions like these where we face higher category clubs, outside of our Category 3 games programme, to test our players against Category 2 clubs.

“It is a great opportunity. This supplements the players’ development, alongside the Youth Alliance League, the Youth Alliance Cup and the FA Youth Cup.

“If you are looking at transitioning into the first team, playing Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday at a high level, this gives them an idea of that.

“We want to do well, to progress and keep challenging ourselves. It will be a good measure of how far we have come.”

The game on Saturday, away at Exeter, sees Argyle come into it in very good form. In league action, The Greens won 7-0 at Swindon Town on Saturday to continue a 100% start to the season, which they would obviously like to maintain.

“We always set up to win,” said Under-18s manager Darren Way. “We talk about finding different ways to win football matches. Exeter play a certain style that we have to be equipped for. Over the last two or three seasons it has caught us out once or twice, but I’ve been pleased with the recent performances we’ve had against them.

“When you talk about a derby game, there are different emotions. It’s about making sure we concentrate on what we do, that we are calm and assured in our possession and we don’t get too excited by the occasion, but play the game with intensity and focus.

“We are all excited about coming up against good competition. We’ve had some good cup games over the last two seasons, including a good FA Youth Cup run and I think it's excellent for the players’ development.”

Under-18s players Oscar Halls, Jack Endacott and Will Jenkins Davies all started the first team’s Papa John’s Trophy tie against Bristol Rovers on Tuesday, with Freddie Issaka and Jeff Forkuo coming off the bench.

It was clearly a good reflection of all the players’ abilities to be trusted in such a tie, but Way focused equally on their mentality and maturity in being able to handle such a step up. He was pleased with all of his players, but picked out defender Oscar Halls, who had the task of playing up against experienced striker John Marquis, for praise.

“It makes you extremely proud,” he said, “I thought Bristol Rovers went strong and it’s not easy for a young player to come into a first-team environment, settle and perform to the levels they have been performing at 18s level, but they are showing real maturity.

“You can see the academy is really starting to grow. The first-team staff get a chance to be able to assess them and give a little more trust to what we are doing. It is difficult because the gaffer has got to win football matches, and to throw a young player in, those are the performances you want to see.

“I thought Oscar played exceptionally well. To play the position that Oscar played on Tuesday; to lead in and fix the line with his voice. He had different threats. Marquis has had a lot of experience, they had a little bit of height, so he had to deal with the aerial duel.

“I just had to single out his performance because he showed excellent maturity. He made us all feel extremely proud.”



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