A Successful Experiment
A few eyebrows were raised at the start of this season when the club announced the formation of a second reserve team to compete in the Pontin`s Holiday League. With the restructuring of the Barclays Premier reserve league meaning that there would be fewer reserve team games this season, City hoped the new team would help bridge the gap between the Academy sides and the first team reserves.
Under the tutelage of Gregor Rioch, the team, comprising of a mixture of players from both the under 18`s and under 16`s, found the step up in class vast at first and were found out by streetwise journeymen pro`s, with the likes of Blackpool, Accrington Stanley, and Rochdale handing out some heavy defeats and teaching them some valuable lessons. But as the season has progressed and the younger members of the squad have gained experience and know how to supplement their undoubted talent, results have begun to pick up with the young blues having lost only one of their last seven matches.
The emphasis of the Pontin`s Holiday League side has tended to focus more on performances rather than just results and Academy boss Jim Cassell is happy with the set up, his brainchild from the very start.
'I`m absolutely delighted with the way it has gone this season,' says Jim. 'We knew it was a risk and after a few games there were a few eyebrows raised towards me! But taking decisions like that is what I get paid for.
'Everybody feels that it has been a good decision, yes, we`ll get bashed a couple of times and we knew that would happen but overall the boys have developed.'
'It`s much better than playing friendly games against inferior opposition,' he continues, 'and I say that with the greatest respect. Every game we play is competitive, they play at the athletics arena like the reserves do, so I think it`s been a good thing.
'It has been a good learning curve for the boys, they have had some real battles, a few crunching tackles have flown in and they have learned from the pros they have played against. Most of the Pontin`s games have been more difficult than the Under 18s fixtures.'
Looking at the recent improvements in both results and performances from the side, its looking like Cassell's gamble is paying off. With youngsters like James Poole, David Ball, and Javan Vidal starting to look the part at this level, next seasons jump to regular Premier Reserve team football should not be too difficult to make. The Pontin`s Reserve league has proved to be an excellent stepping stone in the development of the younger players here at Manchester City and long may it continue.