When I think of this youth development angle, I recall my son at the age of five handing me a lump of brown plasticine with bits of dog hair in it telling me with a massive smile that it was a spaceman. He was so chuffed I didn’t have the heart to tell him it literally looked like shite (he never became a sculptor but works in IT now, so go figure).
The point is that kids are so enthusiastic about stuff when the mood takes them that they will put every ounce of their being into doing well at it. For this, read Fortnite, farting and (sadly less so these days) football, and that basically is what my lovely little prodigal sons are like. As soon as I give them a start or bring them on from the bench the little buggers leg it out from the blocks like a Jack Russell on heat looking for anything to fuck or fuck up. Therefore, my first and main observation from this January halfway point in our first season is this, that they run all day and try sooooooo bloody hard when I let them out, chasing every single ball it seems and begging for the chance to impress. In addition, when I don’t play them they get pissed off to the point where I’ve even had a couple of the cheeky whipper-snappers banging on the door and complaining for lack of game-time, which I absolutely bloody love 🙂
But enough of this Fatherly nonsense, let’s get down to business and look at how the boys are doing and what impact recalling and playing these eight giddy yoofs has had on the save. If you read the first blog in this series, Heathens Global #10a: Our Prodigal Sons (part 1), then you will know that these were my initial aims:
- Give them as many starts and sub appearances as is reasonably possible (for this read at least 1 starter and 2 or 3 on the bench per game)
- Aim for between 10 and 20 appearances across the season
- Review this in January based on their progress
- Use them mainly to rest key players to give us strength when facing the big three (City, Liv, Chelsea) or in periods of fixture congestion
- Put them in targeted mentoring groups for the best training
- Take over individual training where necessary
So, that said, as we now sit on the 1st January, here is that review. First off, a mini save update to see if we are improving on our 4th place finish last year.
Competitions, 1st January 2025
You’re damn right we have improved!
We now sit 1st in the league, a position we have now been in for 7 weeks; absolutely smashed our UCL group to get to the 1st KO round with Monaco, face a (likely) demolition of Reading in the 3rd round of the FA Cup and are into the Carabao semi-final against Championship side Nottingham Forest. So in other words, this is our best January overall position ever in the save.
But how much of this is down to the kids and how much is down to just general squad improvement? Well considering I only bought in one first team signing in the form of the (albeit incredible) LWB Lucas Varela ..
.. I think it is fair to say that a lot of this progress HAS to be down to the kids.
So how much have they been played and what evidence is there to show that this is the case? After all, maybe Varela was the final missing link that has just tipped us over towards possible greatness. In order to assess this, let’s look at the kids’ involvement with a few facts and figures.
The Report Card
So here are the stats for this first 20 games of the season:
As expected, they’ve all had appearances apart from the poor GK Ron Elsom who must be wondering why he got recalled to not even warm the bench. The fact is that with Jordan Pickford as my backup demanding game time as I predicted, Ron is suffering so will need to go back out on loan. As for the others, an avg of 4.7 starts and 6.5 sub appearances each is spot on with my targets and this has been, for me, the main benefit of having them as my 1st team players are now much more rested and up for the big games. A case in point would be the magnificent Antoine Henry, who is smashing it at a goal per start while Timo Werner has been out injured for two months. Those 2 assists from Ture in 5 starts are also bloody lovely too and in general I’m very happy indeed with all those ratings. When you drill it down further into individual markers, it has also been looking good, with the CD Andre Silva on the best headers and tackles per 90 in our whole squad (albeit just on 3 games) and the midfielders Orozco and Kone our 3rd and 4th best for completed passes for 90 on their combined 11 apps:
To sum this section up, here is an indication of their impact overall across the calendar, though of course this doesn’t include assists or key passes etc:
Where too next?
More of the same of course! We are looking good in all comps so far so good. I also have a couple of loanees coming back so we shall see if we can find a place for them. One thing that might impact us is that (since there has been a two day gap between writing the above and this final bit) Werner has now been sold because my fella Joao Amaral here suddenly became available on a 50mil buyout after a two year scouting mission. It will take time to bed him in as he doesn’t speak the language but he will be another excellent striker alongside the kids I hope in the years to come:
So there we go chaps, please keep your eye out for the next blog to see how we fare at the end of this first season of the #prodigalsons.
Bye for now,