Academy Manager Ian McGuckin gives the latest from his set-up including the FA Youth Cup, England Schoolboys trials and positive news on the injury front.
It's been over a week since Hartlepool United Academy were last in action. Pools suffered a narrow defeat away to Guiseley in the FA Youth Cup third qualifying round, despite taking an early lead through Alfie Steel. McGuckin gave his assessment:
"There's no skirting away that we just didn't perform on the night. For whatever reason we weren't ourselves and Guiseley took advantage. We give full credit to Guiseley and wish them luck for the rest of the competition. It's a learning process for ourselves. It exposes the lads to different environments, and we want to see the progression in how they deal with each challenge during their time with us. Some players cope with pressure differently, but the biggest thing is their attitude and willingness to learn."
Pools were hit with an injury crisis at the start of the month with four players on the treatment table. McGuckin has revealed positive news, with his squad now nearing full strength.
"Leo Robinson is back and fully fit. Campbell Darcy has returned to the squad after illness. Ollie Duthie and Joel Ingram are both making good progress. Joe Aungiers is doing well but he'll still be two or three weeks away. It's part and parcel of football - we were quite fortunate in having a settled side but then getting so many injuries at once knocked us out of our stride. Thankfully the short break in fixtures has helped us with recovery and filtering lads back into training."
Two players have been called up from the development squad in Archie Small and Jack Wallace over recent weeks. The pair featured against Accrington Stanley in the EFL Youth Alliance Cup, before being involved against Guiseley in the FA Youth Cup. McGuckin explained:
"The injuries have provided an opportunity for others to come into the side and take their chance. The two lads who came up from the development side fully deserved their chance and it was great to see them involved. Hopefully we can see many more lads progress through that pathway, not just now but in seasons to come."
It's been a hectic fortnight for Archie Small. Not only did the defender make his Academy debut, but he also featured in the England Schoolboys Northern Trial. He was successful in phase one and will now head to the second stage of the trials in the near future.
"We're really pleased for Archie. He's done tremendous and deserved his opportunity. It's a tough selection process with a lot of talent to compete with, so we're delighted he's made it through the first phase and we wish him the very best for the rest of the trials."
Hartlepool United Academy return to action this Saturday with a trip to Grimsby Town U18s in the EFL Youth Alliance. McGuckin is hoping to see his side return to their former selves and pick up three points on the road.
"The lads are looking forward to it. We've had a while to prepare for it and we're wanting to get back to winning ways. We've got an identity that we've shown for large parts of the season, and we want to get back to that. We want to play fast, aggressive and exciting football. There's another side of it when we don't have the ball - showing an intensity and desire to get it back."