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End of season reflections

End of season reflections

Andrew Parker15 May - 17:00
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On behalf of the Executive Committee, Acting Chair, Sean Downey, provides an assessment of the 2023-24 season.

The season has been a mixed one for the First Team. After a good FA Cup run, they reached the Second -Round proper of the FA Trophy, the best run in the club’s history, and until the last 6 games of the season, were in and around the play-off positions in our first season back at Step 4. For a new management team and a virtually new team, competing in a new, very competitive league, this was way beyond our expectations. However, injuries to key players, some below par performances in a few and some misfortune in a number of other games, as well as a loss of form in the attacking positions, meant the season ended on a disappointing note. This disappointing end to the season, however, must be seen in the context of the whole season, and there was much to commend about the performance of this young side, many playing at Step 4 for the first time. They and the Management Team will learn from this experience. There is much work to do to regroup and go again, and Flinny, Chancey and Jimmy are already hard at it, preparing for next season. A key priority is to add players with step 3 and step 4 experience to blend with the core of last season’s squad and our up and coming younger players. Meetings have already taken place with a number of potential recruits and there will be more news on these developments in the weeks to come.

Our U18s started the year on fire, reaching the Second- Round proper of the FA Youth Cup, overcoming 4 National League teams in the process. Many of those players progressed to be mainstays of our Development Team, a tribute to the coaches and managers who have, over a number of years, embedded a robust and successful youth development pathway within our club. A good number are local lads and it is great to see these opportunities once again being made available to our talented local players.

Our young Development team, with an average age around 18/19, defied all the naysayers and finished just outside the play-offs in their first season at Step 6. A fantastic achievement! This was further enhanced by the progression to the First Team squad of a number of these young players, a further vindication of the decision we made 6 years ago to invest in youth. There is still much work to do, but the Executive Committee would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank all our volunteer managers/coaches and backroom staff for their incredible commitment to the club and these young players.

To further build on the excellent work of our Youth Development programme, there will be some changes to the structure of the U18 and Development Team for next season. Head of Youth Development James Heeps details these below.

“After another fantastic season with our Development & U18 Floodlight Teams, we move on to season 24/25 with a new Management Structure.

We feel that it is important to appoint people to these roles from within the club; those who have worked tirelessly over this season with our young players, as we know how they work and that their values match the clubs’ with regards to the culture we try to instill, and the environment we try to create.

Paul Reed will take up the role of Development Team Manager - Paul has done a fantastic job guiding the U18’s to the 2nd round of the FA Youth Cup and then nurturing a very young U18 team to a respectable league finish when most of the original U18’s progressed to our Development Team. He has also restructured our training so we are aligned between the 2 teams, working with the other coaches ensuring all sessions are planned and structured so we see the best possible outcome on match day.

Enzo Silvestri will take up the role of U18 Floodlight Team Manager - Enzo has been at the club a while and has been a great asset during his time leading the coaching with the U18’s - Devs and First Team at various times in the last few years. Enzo has worked closely with Paul Reed throughout this season both on game day with the U18’s and training structure. Enzo, who has managed the u16’s EJA team this season will also be in charge of the new U18’s JPL team put in place to align with all senior teams for training schedules and match days.

The club would like to place on record their huge gratitude to Guy Kefford on stepping in as Manager of the Development Team in December. Guy nurtured the team brilliantly and was totally committed to playing the young players we already had within the club, while providing a platform and environment for our players to prosper. Guy will remain in the club structure and an announcement on his new role will be made soon.”

In conclusion, it only remains for me as Acting Chair, to thank all the players, managers, coaches, backroom staff, bar staff, volunteers and my hard working colleagues on the committee, who have worked tirelessly to move this club forward both on and off the pitch this season. A huge thank you too, to our amazing supporters who come out in huge numbers, rain or shine, to follow all our teams across the club. Your support remains vital to the progress of Leighton Town FC. A further thank-you to our fantastic sponsors, without whose support the club could not function in the way it does, as both a football club and an important hub for the local community.

Over the next week or so I will provide more detail on the on-going, off-pitch work, that is taking place behind the scenes to meet the FA ground grading requirements, as well as other significant developments designed to move the club forward over the coming months and years.

We look forward to welcoming you back to a new look ‘Freed Veneers Community Football Stadium at Bell Close’ on the 13 July when we will host our first pre-season friendly against AFC Rushden and Diamonds. A full pre-season programme of fixtures will be published soon.

Sincere good wishes to all: Sean

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