Head of Academy Coaching Steve Wigley spoke to fulhamfc.com about the Academy’s pre-season, and the fast approaching new campaign.
“I’m pleased its over,” he commented on the last month. “I’m not a lover of pre-season if I’m honest. It went pretty well really, we had a group of the senior boys from the Under-23s training with the First Team, so they’ve gained some experience and played in some games.
“That means some of the younger boys from the Under-18s have moved up and played in Under-23s games. I think it’s probably just this last week where it has settled down and everybody will probably start the season where they should be and where they are merited.
“We’ve picked up a couple of injuries up but they are re-occurring things from last year. Other than that I’m pretty pleased to be honest, we’ve had a couple of good trips and now its time for a proper routine.
“Some of the first year scholars have hit the ground running, they’ve played U23s as well because they have performed.
“We will always have a system here where age is no bearing. Whoever is playing best gets promoted, our best example of that is Ryan Sessegnon having played in the First Team at 16 years of age, that will continue.
“I don’t think we have ever had a more punishing summer if I’m honest for the scholars. I have to compliment the groundsmen on keeping the pitches in the condition as playable as they have, because we’ve been to other grounds this year where the pitches have really suffered from a lack of water,” he said.
Fulham’s Under-23s kick off their season on Friday evening against recently relegated Manchester United and the Under-18s on Saturday morning at Motspur Park.
“Both games will be tough. Start of the season you don’t get a bigger game for the U23s than Man United. The fact that they found themselves relegated last year, it was a strange season because their U18s won the league. That tells you that they have good young players coming through and that is a game to excite anybody anytime you play the big clubs.
“Swansea we saw a lot of last year. We played them twice in the league, we played them in the FA Youth Cup, the games are always pretty close.
“The 18s fielded their strongest team on Saturday that they have been able to and were comfortable winners against Nottingham Forest so they are in a good place mentally and physically.
“It would be nice if the First Team can get off to a winning start, which is the priority. Friday and Saturday all three Club teams play at home.”
Asked if developing players was the only priority, he replied: “We want to win games of football as well. Over the years, the more games of football we’ve won, the better players we have developed.
“We will always be on the young side of whatever we do because that’s what we have decided. I’m a great believer that you can’t always win, but you can always be competitive. We play to win, I don’t deny that and I wouldn’t be doing my job otherwise.
“I’ve always said, the main thing I look for is I always want to have the best two players on the pitch, and if I’ve got that then it does make me happy.”