AFC Rushden & Diamonds are pleased to announce they will be running an Under-21 side from the 2013-14 season onwards.
The AFC Rushden & Diamonds U21 team will play in the Athium Midland Combination U21s league. They will be managed by Dean Thomas, who worked with both the first team and the U18 side last season, with the squad leaning heavily on the resources from the U18 sides that played for the Diamonds in the past two seasons. They will play their home games on the 3G Astro-Turf facility at the Manor School Sports College in Raunds on Saturday Mornings – Kick Off 11am.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds Chairman Ralph Burditt explained the initiative:
“We feel that currently the step between the Under 18s and the first team is too large. We have had and will continue to have some fantastic Under 18s graduate from the NSYL side but it is not realistic to expect them to walk straight into the senior team, nor is it fair. The thing that allows young lads to adjust to adult football is game time, for example this is the reason that Louis Smith went to Burton Park Wanderers for the second half of last season – he is a fantastic prospect, but he needs game time that we couldn’t give him last season. What we wanted to be able to do was offer this game time within the club where we can monitor and control it and also the training that the players receive.”
Ralph went on to explain that there was a desire to find was an environment within which players could continue to develop and play the modern attractive style of football that the club wants to promote, as well as recognising that it would not be practical to stage the games at the Dog & Duck, which would have been a requirement for a UCL Reserve team.
He also explained that to have a development team playing friendlies was tried last season, but it was difficult to arrange fixtures once the poor weather had such an impact.
Ralph also highlighted further advantages of playing in the Athium Midland Combination U21 League:
- There is no requirement to play in a ground of a specific standard, just for a good basic level of facilities.
- Three ‘over-age’ players can play in the team, so it is a useful mechanism for giving game time to first team squad members.
- The games are played on Saturday mornings so do not conflict with first team games.
He accepted the issue of the travelling distances involved, but indicated the committee felt this would be outweighed by the advantages of being in this league.
Ralph confirmed the initiative to the AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ Members at their recent Members’ Forum, advising that the management and coaching staff have been very receptive to the idea of having an u21 side from the start, and have supported it enthusiastically. This was backed up by both Mark Starmer and Andy Peaks who spoke at the meeting, and indicated they would get along to the U21 home games where they coincided with a local game for the first team later in the day. Similarly the AFC Rushden & Diamonds U21 Manager Dean Thomas would be involved on first team match days when his U21 commitments permitted.
With this new initiative comes a number of ways that AFC Rushden & Diamonds fans can volunteer to help – getting involved in various ways, some of which are detailed in the vacancy list here. These include a team co-ordinator as well as a match reporter, but additional helpers are always welcome in many other areas that will need to be replicated for the U21s. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you think you might be able to help. Similarly the team will be looking for kit sponsors etc – please contact email@example.com for more details.
The other teams in the league, which is operating as a single division this season are AFC Worcester Olympic U21, Austrey Rangers U21, Bewdley Town U21, Bustleholme U21, Coventrians U21, Dudley Town U21, Heath Hayes U21, Kings Heath Concorde U21, North Warks & Hinckley College U21, Romulus U21, Rugby Town Juniors U21, Solihull Moors U21, Sporting Khalsa U21, Woodbourne Sports U21, Worcester College Of Technology U21. You can find league fixtures and a league table here – and the overall website for the Athium Midland Combination is here.
You can also find a dedicated section for the U21 side on this website, equivalent to the similar section for the U18 side under the “Teams” menu heading.