It was victory in the unknown for Sydney FC Under 18’s PS4 NPL NSW squad as they claimed the Under 18’s Premiership at the weekend at Lambert Park.
Victory over Hakoah Sydney City East on Saturday secured the Sky Blues sixth piece of NPL silverware in their history, and Head Coach Jimmy van Weeren has praised his Premiership winning squad for achieving that feat playing two age groups up.
“The players and the staff were all very happy and the staff were especially very pleased for the players,” van Weeren said.
“The majority of the squad are playing two years up. We weren’t really sure how they were going to go on a physical level, despite being good footballers, so I’m very happy for the group.
“It was the unknown [this season],” he continued.
“Last year players had played a year up in the Under 16’s, being under 15 born players and they did quite well in that competition.
“Then we went into NPL 1 where it tapers to the top league, and they’re playing two years up, they adjusted well and realised they had to make quicker decisions so it was a good learning experience.
“There was a definite step up in opposition quality and every week was a challenge.”
With the majority of Sydney FC’s squad being under 16 born, van Weeren said a lot of emphasis was placed on individual development, with a view to preparing the players for their senior years.
“I think of lot of what we do is individual development within the team context,” van Weeren said.
“As much as we want to develop a playing style with an Under 18’s team it’s also about producing players for the Under 20’s and hopefully one day the NPL First Grade and the A-League side.
“It’s piecing together and growing the individual player. The big one this year was challenging the players to make quicker decisions with less time and space and with a physically stronger opponent [which we achieved].”
Having secured the first piece of silverware for the season, van Weeren turned his attention to the Finals Series and said the goal remained the same for each remaining week of the season.
“You want to try and win every game and that’s the educational process we’re going along with these players,” he said.
“We’re going out of the youth football and towards the senior end of football so players should want to win every game regardless of what’s on the line and that’s our aim [for the rest of the season and the playoffs].”
Sydney FC Academy Director Kelly Cross extended his praise to the Under 18 squad.
"The club is excited about the potential in this group," he said.
"The recent results were achieved without five regular players, three of whom have been playing in our U20, plus Ryan Teague who has been in Thailand with the Australian Under 15s.
"Jimmy van Weeren is a very talented young coach and his team, Jason Rea and Richard Paddle, work extremely well together," he continued.
"We thought it might be a big challenge for these lads to move from 70 minute games, with interchange allowed, to 90 minutes of higher level football, with only substitutions allowed, however they have proven more than able to handle it and have played a very pleasing brand of football."
Sydney FC are in next in NPL action on Saturday 29 July as they travel to face Sutherland Sharks at Seymour Shaw (First Grade kick off 6:30pm). Follow @SydneyFC on Twitter for updates.
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