Under 13 Boys Manager, Mark Tyler gives us an update on the season so far.
It’s hard to imagine that it’s almost a year ago that Neil Midgley, John Harvey and myself met in Cambridge to discuss the possibility of taken on the 2022 / 23 Cambridge City Under 13’s.
How time flies!
When thinking back to our meeting, both John and myself had a real desire to get involved, and we were obviously super excited about the prospect of not only joining a fantastic Football Club, but also stepping into EJA Football with an opportunity to form a new side.
We would like to put on record our thanks to Neil for bringing us on board.
We held some initial open trials between March and May (of last year) and saw over 50 lads across those three sessions, where the standard was extremely high. It’s fair to say it gave John and I some serious headaches!
We were delighted with the squad we assembled for the up and coming season, and reiterated to the parents that whilst we were over the moon with the talent and blend of technical and physical ability within the squad, we were keen to set expectations to our group early in terms of playing time and contributions throughout the season. Many of our lads are hyper competitive and want to play every minute of every football match (were we any different?), but we stated it was unrealistic to expect to play every minute of every game, and that every member of the squad will play an important role at some point throughout the season.
John and I also reiterated that the development of all of our players is massive, together with aiming to provide that future Cambridge City player, who can benefit from the pathway at City to push towards the Under 18’s and First Team in the future.
The above was a huge factor in my desire to join Cambridge City. The Club has always had a great reputation for its community spirit and pathway for youth players aiming to play for the first team.
It seems like an eternity ago when we played our first ever game, but enjoyed a solid pre - season with fixtures against Ware, Letchworth Garden City Eagles, Shefford Saints and Baldock (to name just a few). John and I also arranged a team bonding day out at The Cambridge Water Park for the lads to get to know one another together with some sessions throughout the summer.
When the league grouping came through, we were grouped with teams outside of Cambridgeshire in U13 Division Brown and faced trips to Walthamstow, Enfield, Maldon, Chelmsford and Heybridge as well as “local” games against Saffron Walden and Stansted.
John and I knew that being grouped with your Walthamstow’s, Enfield’s and Essex based sides would provide a significant challenge to the lads in terms of the levels of competitiveness and adversity faced, but importantly, felt the level of opposition would be beneficial to us as a group in the long term (regarding our individual and collective development).
For our first game of the season, we were drawn away to Walthamstow in the Cup, and went into the game (as mentioned above) off the back of a decent pre-season.
We came away with a 2-1 victory (against a very technically efficient Walthamstow side), and John and I were thrilled with the togetherness and spirit shown.
Over the coming weeks, we traded a loss at home to Chelmsford (5-4) with a win away at Saffron Walden (0-2) , and then a run of three home defeats to Stansted (3-2), Enfield (7-2) and Wingate and Finchley (4-2).
Reflecting on those home defeats, we certainly were unlucky to lose against Chelmsford and Stansted and were 2-2 with Enfield going into the last 20 minutes of the game! We had an entertaining game against Wingate and Finchley but unfortunately went down 4-2 in our second round cup match.
At this stage of the season it was apparent that we were coming up against not only good levels of opposition, but teams that have been together for 4 / 5 years. This meant that we were behind the curve in terms of the social corner, but, as a group remained positive, and focused on each game as an opportunity to put into practise sessions worked on in midweek training.
John and I felt as a group we were starting to gel with players beginning to understand not only their roles within the team, but their roles within their units and were now forming good relationships / social bonds with their team mates also.
The above was very much in evidence when we beat Stansted 5-2 away from home to avenge our defeat early on in the season, and picked up a further away win at Maldon and Tiptree, but also went down to Walthamstow 0-5 in between those fixtures.
That game against Walthamstow was pretty much the only game so far this season when I felt we were not competitive, together with that last 20 minutes at home to Enfield Pumas. These two teams will fight it out for the U13 Brown Division title, but I am pleased to report we gave a fantastic account of ourselves in both away fixtures against these sides losing 3-2 and 2-1 respectively. In both matches we were extremely unlucky to come away with nothing, but as always John and I were delighted with our performance where the lads gave everything for one another (in freezing cold, -3 conditions in North London on both occasions)!!
As I write this summary, returning to thinking of our journey since we formed the team back in early 2022, John and I feel (as a group) we have come a very VERY long way in a short space of time. As stated above, we have been competitive in a high percentage of matches so far this season, and feel we can have a hugely positive end to the season. We are due to visit Chelmsford at the weekend (Sunday 5th Feb) fresh off the back of a 10-0 win against Saffron Walden where we had six different goal scorers (and our goal keeper saved a penalty)
Last Sunday we went to Heybridge Swifts and came away with a 1-0 victory. It was a superb football match that was evenly contested, and I am pleased to report we got our noses in front some 15 minutes from the end to make the long journey home even sweeter!
With five League matches still to play, John and I believe we will have a strong finish to the season (where we are aiming for third position), however, the primary focus for the lads is to continue to evolve / develop but fundamentally continue to enjoy their football.
Massive thanks to both Alice Dewey and Neil Midgley for their support so far this season (it has not gone unnoticed) – up the Lilywhites!