WORTHING Football Club’s under-21 manager Bob Paine said he was proud of how the team’s first season went.
Rebels set up the under-21 squad last summer and the team finished fourth in the Ryman under-21 League South Division and also reached the semi-finals of the League Cup.
In total, 12 members of the under-21 team played for the first team and Paine said: “Given a lot of the boys still have two years at under-21 level, to finish fourth and reach the League Cup semi-finals was an outstanding achievement.
“The club is in a healthy position on the field and, with a more stable club off it, we can only get stronger.
“The under-21s can play their part in ensuring the first team becomes more successful by developing good, young, local players.
“I’m proud of what has been achieved in this first season. I would not have been able to do it without the help and support of Richard Wootton and Jon Chalaye, who have worked tirelessly in developing these young players ready for when Adam Hinshelwood (first-team manager) needs them.
“I would also like to thank the boys’ themselves for their attitude and commitment throughout the season.”
Paine admitted there were some reservations about the club setting up an under-21 team and said: “There were a small number at the club who did not think starting an under-21 team was a good idea.
“As I understand it, they were concerned that it would be an additional financial burden on the club and, with what came out during the season, in terms of the serious financial position the club was in, to some extent you can understand those concerns.
“As it turned out, through sponsorship which the under-21s were able to attract, the financial cost to the club was minimal.
“In terms of football, it was absolutely the right decision to have that stepping stone between the under-18s and the first team. When the financial issues came to a head, Adam had a lot of good young players available to him, which he would not have if the under-21s had not been there.”
Paine highlights Jazz Rance and Ryan Quirke as two players who progressed from the under-21 side to the first team during the season.
He said: “Jazz was at Lancing and I was very pleased when he said he was interested in coming back and made him my captain.
“In a lot of ways, Jazz was the flagbearer for the under-21s and showed the value of having the stepping stone. He played 13 games out of 26 and scored ten goals, which quickly bought him to the attention of Adam and he made his way into the first-team squad.
“Although I lost my captain and an excellent player, it showed exactly what the under-21s was there to do.
“Ryan was slightly different in that he had not gone from Worthing to play elsewhere in senior football. He had played a bit of Sunday football but not much on a Saturday. He took a bit of persuading to sign but, with his ability, I could see he had great potential.
“Although he did not get in the under-21 side straight away, he worked on the parts of his game we told him he needed to improve and, when Adam needed a midfielder for his bench away to Hythe, I had no issues with suggesting he take Ryan.
“From that point, Ryan was part of the first-team squad and his season ended with an outstanding goal at Guernsey.
“Their examples show the value of the development squad and how it should work. They are the example of what all our other young players should aspire too.”
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