Rotherham United Academy Manager Richard Hairyes insists he is pleased with the progress of the club’s youth setup which he is currently overseeing from afar and has hailed all of the youngsters’ efforts up to this point of the season.
The Millers’ Academy playing programme was suspended in keeping with the first team schedule meaning that the youngsters have also been without football since 14th March but Hairyes has been pleased with the feedback he has received from players and coaches alike as they look to continue their good work in the 2019/20 season.
The Academy players are following a similar path to their first team counterparts in their attempts to stay sharp ahead of their return to action, but have the added task of ensuring their education programmes are completed alongside their fitness work.
“We've been doing plans and giving the U18s, in particular, different tasks to do,” Richard told www.themillers.co.uk.
“We've got the U16s to join Strava, so we have set running and fitness programmes which they can tie in with the U18s, so they'll be ready for next year.
“It is very similar to what the first team are doing in that respect.
“The second years are just finishing their education and the first years are still on with it.
“All the grades are looking really, really good again, which is pleasing for us away from the football aspect of the Academy.
“We are using the same tutors as we would if we were in the classroom. I get an email on a Monday containing the weekly schedule and between us, we agree that. That is then passed onto the lads.
“They are working to the same timetable as they would be if they were in the club, so we have sessions on Monday afternoon, all day Wednesday and then Friday afternoons.”
It would normally be around this time of year that the Academy staff would consult with those involved with the first team to put forward their suggestions for any players they believe would be candidates for professional deals with the club, and while nothing is likely to happen imminently on that front with football postponed, Richard was quick to point out that discussions are still taking place.
“I've been having a lot of conversations with Matt Hamshaw about other lads in the Academy who may be of interest to the first team for professional deals,” he continued.
“Obviously Gratts [Jacob Gratton] has got one already.
“We've had a fantastic season. The U18s got to the cup final and in the U16s we've got six lads internally coming through for scholarships next year which bodes well.”
When asked for his reflective thoughts on the season as a whole across all of the age groups, the Academy manager reserved high praise for his players young and old.
“There isn't a bad team in the Academy as I talk to you now,” Richard enthused.
“The U15s and U14s are two of the groups we're really excited about.
“The standard in the Foundation Phase since Dave Atkinson has taken that role has moved up to another level.
“The lads are fitter, better on the ball and they are technically better footballers. They have a brilliant game understanding too.
“The U10s haven't lost a game all season - they have won every single game.
“It bodes well. We've got good players within the club.”
Richard concluded by reiterating his thanks to a number of key staff at the club - starting at the top with Chairman Tony Stewart - for their increased backing which he believes has helped take the youth setup to another level.
“We've been fortunate with Paul Douglas' support, but with thanks to Karen Thomas our Finance Director and the Chairman, I have more staff in the Academy than we have ever had,” he added.
“You can see the results from that because we're getting better results on and off the pitch.
“We have a very talented and hard-working group of staff and I think that rubs off on the players.
“In addition to that, the pathway to the first team has never been clearer and I think a lot of youngsters in the area are recognising that Rotherham United can offer them a real chance at making it in professional football, but not just that, also the opportunity to get a good education and grounding in life.”