It’s been a period that has presented an array of new challenges for Rotherham United’s Academy over recent weeks, with the management opting to deviate from the usual schedule to test the players on unfamiliar territory.
The Academy recently hosted and participated in the Football League Festival and reached the final of the competition where they were defeated on penalties by local rivals Sheffield United.
Proud Academy Manager Garreth Barker took time to reflect on the success of the day in the wake of the tournament organised by the Millers, as he spoke to www.themillers.co.uk
“We had a good weekend last weekend, hosting the Football League Festival at the Academy,” he beamed.
“It all went very well. It was an enjoyable morning and the organisation was good. We saw some very good competitive games played and lots of goals.
“Alongside us, there were teams from Lincoln, Grimsby, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday and Doncaster all in a tournament.”
The competition provided a unique experience for the Millers’ youngsters who took part in full-sided 30-minute matches, with draws settled by sudden death penalty shoot-outs and Barker believes the break from the regular format will have helped the players and management alike:
“The boys have really benefitted from this different type of football.”
“I think come tournament time there’s more pressure so there’s a different kind of challenge for the players and even the staff, who have to manipulate teams and change tactics.”
The Millers’ under 13’s side were the team that fell at the final hurdle, after a thrilling 3-3 draw with the Blades in the final was settled by a shootout.
“We had a good showing from our under 13’s who were unfortunate and lost in the final on penalties.
“We took the lead and then got pegged back and equalised again. We missed a couple of chances to win late on, so it went to penalties where unfortunately we lost. I have to say that Sheffield United are a very good team with a very good goalkeeper who made a great save and sometimes you’ve got to say that it’s just good for our boys to be competing.”
A break from the norm is something that Barker believes his young players can profit from in the future and presented another group of youngsters with a fresh challenge recently:
“What we’re trying to do is set different challenges for players,” he told www.themillers.co.uk
“For example, our under 15’s played at Bolton Wanderers recently and we don’t normally play against Category A academies. It’s a change of environment and the lads get to play on better facilities and test themselves against players who should, on paper, be better."