Mansfield Town’s head of recruitment Scott Rickards says he is looking to complete the ‘last push’ towards completing the under 21s’ squad for next season.
The Stags are re-entering the Final Third Development League following a one-year break and Rickards says he has secured 70 percent of the squad, with the finishing touches looking to be completed soon.
With limited playing places remaining for next season, Rickards explained how high-quality players can apply to be considered.
“They can attach a CV and a covering letter of where they are or what clubs they’re at, where they’ve trialled at for instance and send that into our academy email which is firstname.lastname@example.org
and leave a contact detail or leave a telephone number and we’ll be sure to get back to every candidate that emails in to let them know what the next process is in terms of our recruitment.”
During the 2015/16 season, the club had no pathway between the under 18s and the first team, however the Sutton Coldfield-born man believes the club is taking a step in the right direction with the reintroduction of the under 21s.
“We withdrew from the reserve league so the boys had no throughput to go and get game time and almost test themselves at a bit more of a physical level than youth football.
“We felt that there was a big hole, almost like a space where a lot of players end up at 18 not having an opportunity to go and test themselves at [under] 21s level – we haven’t got an under 21s and that was obviously a natural progression to put that in place so the boys have got more time to develop.
“We can give them another couple of years to see if they develop further – whether that be physical, whether that be technical, physical, tactical or a different element of development which they haven’t yet hit at 18,” Rickards said.
“Within recent years, we would’ve had to let those players go and the benefit for the football club will be having give the boys a little bit more time and hopefully get more home-grown talent on the pitch and this is what this opportunity should do and I believe will do.”
The players will be at the club on ‘non-contract and non-professional’ terms over the two-year period with the under 21 setup and will play competitive football on a weekly basis in the Final Third Development League.
The under 21 squad will complete a foundation degree in sports science with the club and Rickards says the opportunity gives young footballers the chance to progress into the first team.
“The boys would be educated for 50 percent of their involvement with the club and they would be football coached for 50 percent of their involvement, and they would play their football in the reserve league which the football club are entering next season solely for the under 21s squad.
“So those players will get prime access to that league, which is very competitive and also viewed by our first team staff on a weekly basis. So they’ll be putting themselves in the shop window in front of our first team staff on a number of occasions where it only takes one opportunity to pop up where maybe the gaffer (Adam Murray) wants a certain style of player or needs to back-fill the squad for training or maybe a game and these [under] 21 boys will be in a prime position to go and affect and go and secure something within our first team.
"The under 21s will be imperative to Adam's first team selection, in view of the new contstraints of the transfer window in the Football League."