Paddy McCarthy’s U18 side have been pulling up trees so far this season and now, the gaffer has tested their mental and physical resilience as a group with a team-building weekend away with the military.
The above video documents their time with the army, where the youngsters were “taken out of their bubble” and made to undergo the sorts of exercises used to train soldiers who are readying themselves for combat. Whilst the lads always seemed to remain in good spirits, it was clearly an important guide for Paddy and the other coaches, who were keen to discover which of the boys would flourish and struggle in the circumstances.
Given their already solid levels of general fitness, it looked as though the players bought into the physical elements of the training completely, struggling most when being forced to sleep overnight in a tent which they had constructed together. Tightly packed in against one another and with the wind howling, there were some truly tired faces on show when they were woken up the following morning and told to be ready for another physically demanding day but for the most part, they responded to all of the challenges remarkably well as a collective.
On the pitch, the boys are genuinely flying. Top of the league heading into 2018 and through to the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup, Paddy seems confident that at least a few of them have bright futures within the professional game, making events such as the one filmed above all the more important for their long-term development as professionals.
The life of a footballer is a strange one, given the need for individuals to follow orders dutifully whilst also being able to readily express themselves on an individual level when the occasion calls for it. Whilst it’s easy to encourage the latter, plenty of outsiders have the impression that players aren’t of a mind to muck in and do as their told from day-to-day, making the reaction of the lads throughout the above mini-documentary extremely impressive from my point of view.
I and plenty of other interested supporters have felt for a few months as though we’ve got a rather special crop of players on our hands in this current crop of U18s. Let’s hope we hear plenty more from all of them in the years to come.