The history boys as Gladiator academy changes bear fruit

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Matlock Town Academy continued to make huge strides of improvement over the 2016/17 season after an internal restructure.

Before the start of the season, Matlock Town Reserves went through a major structural reform, which saw a change in technical staff and a drop in the players’ average age.

The goal was to provide a top end of the pyramid side with an average age of just 17.

It is safe to say the reformation was a huge success with the development sector bringing back three major trophies to Causeway Lane and providing superb grounding for further improvement next season.

Matlock Town development manager Justin Tellus, at the forefront of the change, spoke with pride.

“It has been a hugely successful season, not just for silverware but also in the development of young players and the internal foundations of the system,” he said. “What has been produced on the pitch in success is the fruits of the professionalism and motivation levels set by the development technical staff.”

At the top of the Matlock Town development pyramid the reserves, now fuelled by academy players, finished seventh in their division at step seven of non-league football — and didn’t stop there.

They made make history by winning the Derbyshire Divisional North Cup.

Goals from Ben Edgson and Jordan Lee in a 2-1 victory over Tintwistle Athletic secured the trophy for the first time in 25 years.

That was the first piece of silverware brought home by the development squads and the next came in the form of the NPL Joma League title.

The Under-16s, also known as Matlock Town (Blue), fought off fierce competition from Mickleover Sports (Red) to finish three points clear at the top.

Next up was the Under-17s’ defence of the Euro-Sporting Blackpool Cup, where yet more history was made as they became the first mon-league team to win the trophy back-to-back.

The young Gladiators went undefeated throughout the tournament, but needed a penalty shoot-out to win the final. Keeper Lydon Moore provided the heroics and Jordan Wells hit the winning spot-kick.

It could,in fact, have been five trophies for the development squads this year as the Under-16s came runners-up in the U-16s Blackpool Cup, losing the final to Greystones United, and in the NPL Chryso League, the Under-17s, known as Matlock Town (Royal), finished third.

Another mark of the squads’ success is the number of players who have stepped up to represent the first team, with eight players making the jump this term — a record achievement for the development sector.

It showed the continual improvement of bridging the gap between the two, which allows the youth set-up to provide a platform for the first-team squad to feed from.

Development manager Tellus spoke with even greater optimism for next season.

“We look forward to taking further steps forward next season, which will be our third season with our own academy,” he said.

“We will look to maintain the success on the pitch as well as continue to build the infrastructure that supports players’ development into semi and professional footballers — as well as opportunities through our community to supply educational pathways plus links into football through Matlock Town FC,”

The academy squads begin pre-season in July and have a string of friendlies already planned, the first on July 12th when the Under-17s travel to face Sheffield United.