09:00AM, Sunday 27 June 2021
Photo by Darren Woolley
During what’s been a difficult few months for the club and their management team, Slough Town’s u23s side has been a ‘real tonic’ of positivity, according to joint boss Neil Baker.
With last season having been abandoned and declared null and void, and the club having lost its appeal against an £8,000 fine for refusing to play matches, there’s not been a lot for Rebels’ fans to cheer. But the progress of the u23s academy team has lifted spirits.
Established just under a year ago, they secured silverware in their first year earlier this month when they came from behind to beat Aldershot Town’s Academy team 3-2 in the Suburban Shield Final.
Baker and Jon Underwood, along with many first team players and club officials, were there to see them do it, with captain Eitel Goueth scoring the winner with just a few minutes to play.
Despite the challenges and disruption faced this season, it meant the season finished on a high, and four or five of the academy squad have been promoted to train with the first team during pre-season.
“They’ve been great,” he said. “It’s been a real tonic. Ashley and John have put together a competitive team and the whole operation is run really well.
“They don’t have any discipline problems; they’ve all got great attitudes and want to learn. They’ve been really impressive and we’re in a situation where we’ve got four players training with us fully at the moment, and they’ll be involved throughout pre-season which is a testament to how well it’s gone.
“Four or five players coming through in less than a year is a brilliant return. They might not play week in week out, but they’ve got the chance to prove themselves now. It’s gone better than we could ever have imagined.”
Baker said, ‘sometimes it’s about someone giving you an opportunity’, adding that he’d have no qualms about throwing them into National League South action this season if required. Whether they impress or not is down to them, but at Slough it seems they’ll be given that chance.
“For any young lad coming through and wanting to go to an academy, it’s good for them to see the first team managers watching games.
“Obviously, it’s been easier to watch games when there are no first team games on, but if the opportunity is there to watch them, I’ll watch them.
“In the final, the management team were there, along with club directors, everyone was supporting them and that goes a long way. Hopefully, they can now find a pathway into our first team.
“But, if we were playing a game now, there are two or three that if I needed to bring on in a game, I don’t think I’d have any issues whatsoever.
“When I was 17, I made my debut in the Conference. “You have to have somebody take a chance on you and give you that opportunity.
“If they do the right things, they’ll get that opportunity which is a great thing for them.”