This week we sat down with Academy manager Andy Lowe and some of our talented young players who have made their senior first team debuts this season.
Andy Lowe ‘The past 8 weeks have been an incredibly busy period both on and off the pitch for us all. The Youth team have played a lot of fixtures of late and produced the performance of the season with a 4-3 win over Lincoln City most recently. With many more games in the coming weeks, it would be great to see supporters come and see our young players in action.’
‘During the past few weeks, we have also had our official audit from the Professional Game Academy Audit Company (PGAAC) and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all staff involved in this rigorous process to ensure we are the best we can be for our young players.’
‘Some time has passed since our most recent academy first team debuts and again it is important to extend congratulations to Campbell Darcy, Joe Kitching, Max Storey and the boy’s families for not only being named as substitutes but also gaining valuable minutes on the pitch in the FA cup game against Stoke City this will have been an invaluable learning experience for the boys and fantastic memories for the players and their families. I believe Campbell became the fifth youngest player to make his senior debut for Hartlepool United at 16 years of age. Credit to all the staff involved in this success and a special mention to Phase lead Ian McGuckin for the continued work he does in developing our young players on the grass.’
Below we talked with Campbell Darcy, Joe Kitching, Louis Stephenson and Max Storey about their recent debuts.
Campbell Darcy (Debut - 16 years)
To make my debut was a very proud moment for me and my family, a lot of my family were in the crowd. When I found out I was in the squad again, fourth time, I was excited, nervous but really looking forward to the opportunity.
How did you feel when the manager told you were coming on?
Surreal, little time to think and take it in, I was just determined to get out there and showcase my ability. Hard to describe the feeling but was amazing stepping foot onto the grass. Manager put me at ease wishing me luck and telling me to be confident.
What have you learned stepping up?
Intensity, the training and games are much quicker, you have to move the ball quicker, it’s much more physical and demanding and the time you have on the ball is much less. I am really grateful for the opportunity and working hard to improve and get more in the future.
Joe Kitching (Debut - 17 years 2 months)
I have been involved in training with the first team for quite a while now which has helped me get used to the standards and intensity. When I first found out I was going to be named in the squad I was delighted and was really excited at the opportunity I was being given. My mam and dad were really pleased and proud as they were Hartlepool season ticket holders and supporters years ago
When the manager told me I was coming out, it felt weird and surreal, I was just trying to stay composed and relaxed and didn’t want to let myself down. My first touch after being on the pitch for a few seconds helped me settle and gave me confidence I could play. I was gutted I had a chance and missed it but kept going and did my best. I was delighted to make my debut, but disappointed to lose and have had a flavour of what it is all about and want more, so will continue to work for future chances if I am called upon.
Louis Stephenson (Debut – 17 years 2 weeks)
To be called into train and play in the first team squad has been surreal, being round the squad makes you more determined and gives an insight into what I need to do to play at this level. Training in the first team has helped going into the first team squads and made me feel more comfortable.
Making my debut was very exciting, I just wanted to impress the manager and not let the team down. Hearing the fans cheer loudly when I made my first tackle was an amazing feeling and could feel them wanting me to do well.
When I made my debut I was nervous, but coming on for the stoke game I felt more comfortable and confident when the manager told me I was coming on and really enjoyed my half hour, although disappointed in losing the game.
Being involved in the first team has taught me standards are really high and these opportunities can’t be taken for granted. The opportunity has made me determined and eager to work even harder and continuing to want more.
Max Storey (Named Substitute)
When I found out on the Saturday, I was in the first team squad, I was buzzing as it’s not very easy to get to train and be involved in the first team. When I told my parents they were buzzing and the night before I was so excited and looking forward to the game against Stoke. When I got to the ground seeing my shirt and name on the wall was an unbelievable and felt excited and nervous at the same time.
The manager welcomed us in and shook our hands and told us to enjoy the experience. When the other academy lads went on to play I thought I could be next and tried to keep my emotions in control so I was ready if called upon. Although I didn’t play, it was a very proud moment for me and my family to be named in the FA Cup first team squad as a sub and good experience and taste of what it could be like in the future.
Academy Announce Partnership with North East Regional Ambulance Service.
Partnerships are important to our club and the most recent partnership with Nerams for our Academy is certainly an important one.
Academy Manager ‘We are delighted to develop a partnership with Nerams which has seen all of our youth team fixtures covered by ambulance and medical professions for the whole season, in addition to our qualified coaching team. Nerams provide a diverse range of medical services in the northeast and upon meeting with Operations Director Alan Wheatley, it was clear from the outset we both align with ensuring the creation of the safest possible environment for our young players on match days. We are extremely pleased Nerams can provide us with their ongoing expertise and match day provision. We look forward to working together now and in the future.’