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Faith in Histon system helps role of head of youth Mark Pleasants

Histon head of youth Mark Pleasants. Picture: Howard Wilkins (37954274)
Histon head of youth Mark Pleasants. Picture: Howard Wilkins (37954274)

Lance Key’s willingness to stick by the adage ‘if you’re good enough you’re old enough’ is the perfect motivation for Mark Pleasants.

Alfie Lawrence, Brian-Jeffrey Alihonou, Lewis Mair and Cory Marshall, among others, were all teenagers given chances to step up into the first-team squad by the manager last season, and the aim is to get more players through the Stutes system in order to do so.

The role in overseeing it all will fall to Pleasants, who has been named as the club’s head of youth.

Histon had a blooming youth set-up under Brian Page, who went on to become first-team manager, but as the club went through upheaval the number of teams was down to one when Pleasants arrived, having previously been at Cambridge City.

The first squad was at under-15s level, and they finished second in their league to City, but that has now developed and, prior to the lockdown, the under-18s were on course to win their league and the success was garnering interest from players around the region.

Their position has also been strengthened by a link-up with a Premier League club.

“We’ve built up a partnership with Norwich so we have a partnership with them with Alex Kaufman so we work together from under-13s to under-16s in the Eastern Junior Alliance League – we do the trials together and we pick the teams between us,” said Pleasants

“Over the last four years from one team, we now have under-13s, under-14s, under-15s and under-16s
in the EJA, under-18s in the colts league and under-18s in the Thurlow Nunn League.”

Vital to the development of the youth ranks at Bridge Road though, is the tie-in with the first team and the commitment to the scheme of the first-team manager Key.

Across the cup matches last season, he included as many as seven of the under-18 squad.

Histon manager Lance Key. Picture: Keith Heppell
Histon manager Lance Key. Picture: Keith Heppell

“With Lance being open like that, it is going to attract more players,” said Pleasants.

“With the lads that have gone into the first team, with Cambridgeshire football being quite small, people always talk and know what’s going on here, there and everywhere.

“Those lads that are 17 or 18, their circle is even smaller so the word spreads. I think that’s why we were successful last year and people recognise the pathway to the first team is fantastic.

“I just want to try to build things up. I want it to be attractive for players, and the best for them.

“To go to Histon, which is a fantastic club, lovely stadium is a dream really, to be able to build from there.”

The overall aims remain simple though.

It is to get as many youngsters playing as possible, at the same time as promoting there is a pathway to the first team with a manager that is prepared to give youth a chance.

There is, of course, also the hope that they may uncover an uncut diamond.

“There clearly is a fantastic pathway at Histon Football Club because we have a fantastic manager who has got his eyes open and is willing to use the youth side of things.

“If a manager is not willing to look or try, then you are dead in the water really.

“Lance is more than ready to look at the youngsters and we’ve already had a discussion about when we return the under-18s training with the first team so he can have a really good look at the players.

“The overall aim is to bring them in young, develop them and put them into the first team.”

He added: “If there is another Giuliano Maiorana there ready to go to Manchester United, then all well and good.”

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