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Salford City football Club


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Under-18s lead coach Gary Sampson says he is pleased with the way that the youngsters finished their 2021-22 campaign, with a 2-0 win against Accrington Stanley.

Goals in each half from Alfie Henderson and Donavan Lescott earned the young Ammies three points in their last league game of the season, played at The Peninsula Stadium.

Chances were sparse in the first half, but Salford controlled possession and took the lead when Henderson closed down the visiting goalkeeper, winning the ball and rounding him to tap home into an empty net.

“It was pleasing in a lot of ways, we put a lot of emphasis on what we did out of possession. We watched them quite a few times, we’ve played against them a few times and we knew exactly what they were going to do, how they were going to set up and it helped us get after the ball.

“It’s something I was about to mention at half time, a midfielder breaking the lines to get in behind as soon as they recognised a bit of time on the ball and Alfie did that. The ball was decent, the ‘keeper made his mind up to come and receive it and that’s his reward for closing down. I’m really pleased we got the goal at a decent time before half time which really helped us in the second half.”

After the break Salford stepped up again and confirmed victory when Lescott powered home from inside the area to sign off his two-year scholarship with a goal before moving into the development squad this summer. The striker is one of three Under-18s to earn a professional deal, joining Kelly N’Mai – who signed a deal midway through the season – and fellow forward Djavan Pedro.

“I’m pleased for them, I just mentioned it to the lads in there then that they have to hit the ground running when they come back from the off-season. In pre-season they’ve got to come back and be ready to go, Kelly did the exact same thing last year; at the start of this season he came back, hit the ground running, and straight away the Gaffer’s seen that and given him his chance.

“So we’re really pleased for him, Donovan getting his pro, DJ as well. It’s a stepping stone now for them to go on and produce some better performances, higher performances with their ability.”

A seventh place finish is an improvement on last season’s final standings, and reaching the FA Youth Cup Third Round is another achievement for the Under-18s this season, but Sampson says the progression of players is the real measure of success in the academy.

“We’re never going to have a season where it’s all plain sailing, definitely at development level you’ve got to expect inconsistency and ups and downs and it’s something I was expecting, I didn’t expect us to go and breeze through the season like we did at the beginning.

“There’s always bumps in the road at this level and it’s about how they react, the last few games has proved that with the performance level and results.

“I never look at the league, I don’t see that as a benchmark of where we’ve come from throughout the season or how well we’ve done, it’s always about getting the individuals through and have the individuals developed, and I think they have. 

“You see today with the likes of Kyle Cooper and Jacob Lara [below] putting in two great performances at the back, it’s their journey throughout the season, not just them two, throughout the squad, and if they’re getting better individually it doesn’t matter where we finish in the league.”

A number of the squad have been out to experience what playing is like in step four and below; Pedro and Ben Finley have had loans at the likes of Trafford, AVRO and City of Liverpool, and Lucas Kirnon has spent time at Newcastle Town.

“It’s paramount to their development to go and play non-league men’s football and see the physicality of it, then come back and use what they’ve experienced at under-18s level. 

“If they want to make the step up to first team and under-23s they’re going to have to make sure that they can compete at that level and really compete physically, and that’s what it gives them going into non-league football which is quite crash, bang, wallop at times but, it gives you that return of physicality.”

Well done to all the players and staff on completing another season, and to those who are moving on we send our best wishes for your futures and thank you for your efforts whilst at the Club.

We are looking for accommodation providers for some of our 16 to 18-year-old scholars who are moving away from home. This is a hugely enriching programme and is key to their development away from football. If you think you can help please email kath.matthews@salfordcityfc.co.uk for more information, or click here.