For some reason, it was a strange season to me. Amazingly, the U18 team played 46 games including pre-season, games in Germany, league matches, Youth Alliance Cup, FA Youth Cup, friendlies and two tournaments in Italy. When we lost to Grimsby in the YAC Final, someone remarked that we looked tired. Well, I ain’t surprised ! Not so many players would have played this season, 31 to my knowledge and 5 of those moved up from the U16’s for the last few games.
In the league we won 14 and lost 4 of 22 games, finishing second and four points behind Southend. In my opinion we lost the league rather than Southend winning it. Successive defeats in April done it for us (1-2 at Southend and 1-5 at home to Millwall). Also, sort of mirroring the 1st team, a change of Manager in February may have caused problems. Keith Ryan replaced Steve Brown and he carried on the good work with three successive wins, but a shock 5-0 defeat at Brighton started to rock the boat.
We got to the YAC Final but our league form suffered, especially in defence, when we conceded two ‘fives’ in 4 games and 30 over the season, not good. This was also highlighted against Newcastle in January’s Youth Cup match when, if not for Niki-Lee Bulmer in goal, the visitors could of scored 12 !!! Bulmer is a good keeper and ended up sharing duties with the tall Latvian, ‘Elvis’ Putnins, who is also very good. Elliot Cox is a good right back who can defend and attack very well because of his speed..Michael Wright to me is an out-and-out centre half, very strong,Ed Harris is also very strong and as captain has taken over from Josh Ford as the back-four leader.Femi Ilesanmi and Aaron Waters shared the left back berth, Femi good going forward but Waters, like Cox, is good at both jobs.
Luke Olley played a number of games at centre back and did ok. Josh Parker is a real prospect to me. In Youth league, FAYC, YAC and the overseas tournaments, he scored 20 goals. He has great pace, good skill and fully deserves his pro-contract, as does Danny Davenport. 100% effort from Danny, a leader in midfield and no little skill. Also in midfield are Terry Smith and Max Ehmer, both are good footballers with brains. Smith is a good passer and hustler, Ehmer is bigger, stronger and laid back but knows when to get stuck in. ‘Reggie’ Perrin is another 100% midfielder and good team man.
Antonio German played as a lone striker for most of last season with Parker backing him up. The 15 goals he scored in all competitions showed what a great job he done and which earned him 1st team appearances. Five players got pro -contracts and good luck to all of them. Substitutes for a lot of the games were Danny Bailey, Joe Brittain, Christian Nanetti, Danny Fernandez and Cyrus Vanterpool. Danny Bailey will be good for us when Ed Harris moves up. Brittain will break into the team and will tackle and pass very well. Nanetti has good pace and skill but just has to sort his dress sense out ! Fernandez is probably our strongest Youth forward. Very strong and he likes having a go at defenders, in more ways than one. Vanterpool is slightly built but very skilful. He can keep possession and can play wide or inside.
Mirzai, Morley, Sutherland, Bewick and Harriman are also good players with potential who should break into the U18 squad next season on a regular basis. The “departure” of Steve Brown after eighteen league and Cup games was a surprise but Keith Ryan and Steve Gallen took over a difficult job and we went on to be runners-up in two competitions and also winning a trophy in Italy. German played for the 1st team and Putnins, Bulmer and Parker were involved at 1st team level with Bulmer being sub at Blackpool. So all in all the U18’s had a very good season and as I said earlier, five players , Davenport, Parker, Harris, Ehmer and German all got pro-contracts.
Keith Ryan and Steve Gallen along with Clayton Zane, had a great season with the U16 team, winning 15 and losing 2 of the 20 fixtures fulfilled. Some U16 games were cancelled or became U15 matches. The U16’s are a good unit, scoring 49 goals and conceding only 23. A few of the team, Graham, Sanderson, Sutherland, Bewick and Harriman have already had a taste at the higher level and did very well. Stolley and Francis also look good at centre cack and centre forward respectively. Stolley strong at the back and Francis as a target man holding things up. Graham likes to run with the ball and taking on defenders. Sanderson is very quick and clever. Sutherland has everything in a midfielder. Bewick non-stop and likes to shoot. Harriman , 100% with lots of skill and brains. Stirling is another who is very good and pushing above his weight and age.
With the fifty odd players used last season at both levels, the future looks good. Only nine games were lost by both teams together, so there is plenty to work with. Everybody at Rangers at the moment is waiting ! From the Chairman down to the youngest fan, at all levels. While we are waiting, we must push on and make things happen. I would like to thank Steve Brown, Keith Ryan, Steve Gallen, Paul Ashwood, Steve Bacon and especially for all their help over the season. As I’ve said before, when a Youth Team player gets into the 1st team it makes those Saturday and Sunday mornings even more worthwhile, for everyone !