Bailey’s final reflection

“The way we’ve played has got us here, we’re not going to change it in the final,” reflects Asher Bailey ahead of leading his U16s to the JPL Plate final on Saturday.

It’s a first final as a coach for Academy assistant manager Bailey, in his debut season appointed U16s manager, when he leads the team to the South Kesteven Stadium, home of Grantham Town, to play Woking, on Saturday.

It’s been a year including “a lot of reflection”, explained Bailey, some good, including former player Rakealan Jeffers signing a contract at Bradford City’s academy, and himself being promoted to the Leeds United Shadow Squad as a coach. Then some difficult.

The U16s’ 8-0 defeat by Chesterfield inside their first three matches of the season was “a real wake-up call” for the team.

“It kind of shaped us as well like – it’s not going to be a walkover,” began Bailey.

“For me [this season] it’s been a lot of reflection whereas I’ve not had to do that at grassroots level. What could I have done differently, What could we have done to get an upper-hand, what could we have done in hindsight, speaking with Fluid.

“We’ve had some good results […] we’ve brought in a lot of U15s and they’ve done well. So on the whole it’s been a success”.

Bailey reunited with former player Rakealen Jeffers, a Farsley U16s player at the start of the season, recently signed a contract at Bradford City, when Farsley were beaten by the Bantams academy 4-1 in May.

Other trialists Bailey has produced this season include: Kieron Murthoo-Williams [Bradford City] as well as Shawnee Eddy & Yonas Melake [Sheffield Utd].

“The fact that I’ve managed to work with him [Jeffers] and he’s took on things I’ve told him – it’s quality. It was good to catch up and speak to him.

“Playing Bradford’s academy was good for the boys to get that test for them to see where they’re at”.

“With the other boys, Kieron, Shawnee, their opportunities will come. They’ve had them and they just need to try their best to take them”.

Other key moments during the season Bailey picked out were the 6-3 victory over rivals UFCA as well as the victory over Farsley’s Academy first-year scholars, players from the year above.

None as special as the moment he’ll experience on Saturday, another debut in Bailey’s coaching career as he attempts to win his first cup silverware.

Playing in a semi-professional team’s stadium, with an expected crowd in attendance, Bailey is asking his players to keep their identity of what has earned their final place.

“Composure, one hundred percent.

“Everything we do is tailored to how we play so we can’t do all this hardwork to then get to the final to then do something different. We’ve got to stay true to everything.

“If we start to play football that’s not necessarily our style and we start to go direct and we start to panic – then we lose everything. Because we lose our identity, we’ll lose our team shape and then our ability to press isn’t necessarily as good because we’re playing a style we’ve not worked on before”.

One final match. One final team-talk and Bailey shared what he’ll be telling his players ahead of kick-off:

“Trust each other. They’ve played together all season so they’ve got to trust each other. At the same time, listen to the coaches because in finals, everyone’s pumped up, parents, so there’s going to be a lot of shouting coming in from everywhere, from their team-mates, so they’ve got to trust in themselves and the team and the coaching staff”.

“I’m proud of them. They all know we’re massively proud of them, myself and Fluid. Of how hard they’ve worked, being a team which was thrown together quite late, where they’ve gone, the information they’ve took on board, how they’ve played, everything what they’ve done is something to be proud of and this is the last bit of playing junior football. So, nervous for the boys but end it on a high, take some memories – all the best boys”.


Ben Swain

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