Academy lead coach of the foundation Neil Cluxton hailed the club’s U12s for the way in which they represented the club at the Sligo Cup over the weekend, both on and off the field.
The young Spireites travelled out to Ireland last Friday and participated in the tournament on both Saturday and Sunday, while staying at Sligo University.
“The weekend was all about giving them the experience of seeing what a professional footballer does while they’re away,” Cluxton said.
“Even at 11-12 years of age, there were three of them in an apartment and they had to learn how to behave, spend time on their own and with each other.
“We had moments where we banned phones, which for kids of that age is a big thing, so they actually had to communicate together.
“We travelled to the games on a coach and they all mixed well with other players, and we went to watch an Irish league game on the Saturday night and generally just be in and around a tournament, so it was more tournament football than development football. The lads behaviour was impeccable, and they really represented the club well.”
On the field the Spireites gave a very good account of themselves, only losing to the eventual winners.
“We played three group matches,” Cluxton explained. “In the first we beat Ipswich Town 1-0, which was a great performance, before losing to Dublin’s district side, who were the eventual winners. Before drawing our final game, and just missing out on the 3rd/4th place playoff.
“We ended up in the 5th/6th place playoff and won that 2-1, so we finished fifth out of eight, however our record was two wins, one draw and a defeat, it was a decent weekend.”
As well as the U12s competing in the Sligo Cup, there were other academy sides who were in action over the weekend.
It’s been a busy end to the season, but Cluxton admits that the work is very much not done.
He said: “Over the last weekend, the other U9s-U12s played in the Tulip Cup. The U9s and U11s both got to the final, while the U8s and U10s also got to the latter stages.
“We’ve got a set of fixtures here at the Proact on Sunday, May 27 against our Emerging Talent Centre teams, so if people could come down to watch that that’d be great.
“We’ll then have a break until the first week of July, we’ll have one training session a week in July and August, and then we’re back into three sessions a week in September.”
The tournament in the Emerald Isle was the first that Cluxton has overseen since arriving at the club earlier this year.
Like the players and travelling family members who attended, he very much enjoyed the experience, and unsurprisingly is already looking into taking part in other future tournaments.
He added: “I thoroughly enjoyed the trip; the lads did great and it was good being at the sharp end trying to get results with them.
“Everybody had to work hard, even the coaching staff and I’m looking forward to more, we’re investigating the possibility of doing further trips next season, I’ve had quite a few invites to tournaments in Ireland, Spain and France, so we’ll have a look at the planning situation around that and do as many as we can.”