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Player development progress is ‘above expectations’ – Hardwick

12 March 2022

Mansfield Town’s youth development phase lead coach, Jamie Hardwick says the academy’s approach to the development of its players aged 12-16 is ‘way above expectations.’

The former Stags’ centre of excellence player returned to the club recently, having spent time coaching at Scunthorpe United.

Jamie was a coach at Mansfield’s academy before his stint with the Iron and believes the evolution of the club’s youth development set-up is ‘fantastic’. 

“From last time I was here, it was just about setting up grassroots [at the academy],” he said. 

“They [the academy] just had a Category 4 academy, since then it’s moved on to a Cat 3. 

“I’ve noticed within player development; it’s been way above what the expectations were [when I was last here].

“It’s been four years since I was last here, and I can see the progress has been absolutely fantastic.

"A big mention has to be made to [academy manager] Richard Cooper who has done a brilliant job implementing a belief in player development and to the club and academy director, Steve Hymas for the great facility at Woburn Lane."

Jamie’s role at RH Academy is to develop youth players aged 12-16. The coach takes pride in seeing the academy’s vision of producing younger age group players for the club’s under-19s’ youth team.

“The big example [of the academy’s development] is the amount of younger players getting into the youth team now,” Jamie said.

“From when I was last here, it was mainly all second-year scholars getting in the youth team.

“Now, we’ve got 14-year-olds, 15-year-olds and 16-year-olds getting in the youth team.

“Some of them could get 50 games under their belt [before turning 18].

“The process of challenging them [the younger players] and the opportunity of them getting in the youth team [earlier] benefits the first team in the end. 

“If we can get them ready for the first team at the end of their scholarship, it’s going to benefit the club.”

On some of the academy’s high-performing youngsters, Jamie said: “At the minute we’ve got [under-15s' midfielder] Oliver Taylor who’s doing really well.

“Elliot Hartmann [an under-15s' full-back], he’s doing really well as well.

"Noah Aynsley-Johnson is an under-16s' forward who is working hard and scoring goals.

“I think we’ve got a good group around the youth development phase which can quite easily be pushed on and it’s part of my role to try and challenge these players as much as possible.”

Jamie is a self-proclaimed Stags’ supporter and says that coming back to the club and working at the academy felt like the ‘right time’ to take on his current role.

“An opportunity arose at Mansfield through Simon Ward [the academy’s head of coaching], who I worked with at Ilkeston Town,” he said.

“I’ve always had a love for Mansfield, and it was just the right time for me to take the role. I felt I was at the stage where I could help Mansfield’s academy. 

“With all the hard work done by Jack Hawkins in the foundation age groups; it’s my job to develop that on [further] by implementing one v ones and eleven a side into the players’ game, especially in the under-13s. 

“As it moves up to into the 14s, 15s and 16s it’s about getting them to understand the ‘Mansfield Town brilliant basics’, so they’re getting the basics [of their game] to a really high standard.

“With that, they’ll then hopefully make better decisions, like how to scan and make the correct movement so they’re getting closer and closer to getting in and around Mike Whitlow and Sam Collins' youth team."


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