Chesterfield’s youth team kick off their new season with an away fixture against Scunthorpe United on Saturday morning.
Academy boss Mark Smith is looking to improve on the success enjoyed by the Spireites’ youngsters last season, which saw a third place league finish, a cup semi-final and a run in the FA Youth Cup which included the defeat of Aston Villa.
“We’ve got to develop and build on it, that is a fact but they’re different players,” said Smith, who has been promoted to academy manager during the summer. “What we’ve got at the moment is a new crop of first years so it will be difficult for them to come to terms with full time training rather than training once or twice a week as they were doing at the academy.
“A lot depends on how they react and how they actually develop, some of them develop really quickly; this time last year we had two or three of the first years who went straight in and played from day one in the youth team which helps.
“The second years who have had 12 months already in the programme, a lot depends on them and how they can help the younger players; setting good examples, helping them on the pitch and that sort of thing so we’ll have to wait and see. We’ve got to try and build on it because it’s a good foundation to go on and what we don’t want to do is let it slip back to the previous performances and results we had the season before.”
Along with the success enjoyed by the youth team in the last campaign, professional contracts were handed to forward Jake Beesley and defender Laurence Maguire, and Smith is confident he has players capable of following suit and making the step up.
He added: “I think we’ve got two or three but again they know who the two or three are. I think it’s important that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and we certainly think that’s there now, whereas in the past it might not always have been there so that’s important.
“Three or four definitely as we speak could go on and get a professional contract.”
Reflecting on a testing pre-season which saw his young side paly against sides of predominantly men, Smith said: “The kids have been stretched but it’s not been silly whereby you get kicked all over the park but we haven’t so in that respect it’s been really good.
“We’re just looking now to see if we’ve taken the things we’ve been learning throughout pre-season on board.”