Shelford results hide the growth of club behind the scenes
Youth graduation points the way to the future
With the first team being the standard bearer of a club, it can make things a little difficult if results are not going perfectly.
Shelford are finding that this season in London & SE Premier, but underneath the top string, there are plenty of positives that are giving the Davey Field club some firm foundations for the future.
They have not yet won this season, but there are considerable mitigating factors behind this – mainly a lengthy injury list that has taken out 18 first-team players.
However, head coach Mike Gillick is determined not to use that as an excuse, instead preferring to highlight the positives which has meant opportunities for some of Shelford’s colts.
“The biggest issue is the injuries we had are not a quick fix,” said Gillick. “They are leg breaks which are whole season injuries, which is tough.
“The worst thing was they came right at the end of pre-season. We had a really good pre-season, building a team that looked fairly sharp, and then at the end of pre-season we had to start again because it’s a completely different 18.
“But that’s the nature of sport. We’re not going to use it as an excuse, we’ve just not been good enough, ultimately.”
That list of absentees has included Tom Lucas, Miles Anderson, Joe Winter, Andrew Hutchinson, Grant Anderson, Teddy Hepworth, Jamie Beswick, Henry Cowling and Warrick Anderson.
It has paved the way for youngsters to step up though, with first-team debutants including Ollie Newman, Todd Wishart and Luca Martinelli.
“We’re blooding a lot of youth which is really good,” said Gillick.
“Everything apart from results for the first team at the club is looking really good – the links and bridges we’re building, the setting up of the academy.
“Having the youth come through is looking really positive. We’ve had a couple of weeks where we’ve had an active colt in each of the five senior teams.
“We’re trying to expose at the right time in the right areas. Some of them are really shining, we’ve found some real rough diamonds in there.
“There are boys coming through who in three or four years’ time are going to be quality first-team players, it’s just managing them and developing them and upskilling them until that point.
“As a club, we’ve said that we’re going to make what we’ve got better and place a huge emphasis on upskilling our players to try to create a first team that is homegrown.
“It’s much more sustainable if you can create your own.
“There are lots of positive things happening, it’s just not translating to first-team results at the moment.”
Lewis Cracknell, David Graham and Mark Ryder touched down at the weekend as Shelford pushed Sutton & Epsom before eventually losing 26-19, but it did give them a second losing bonus point of the season.
“The games bar Westcliff, which was a complete embarrassment (a 97-7 defeat), we’ve been in at half time, either ahead or within a score, then we have a 10-minute patch where we’re switching off and that’s coming from youth and a new squad that’s not played together at this level,” said Gillick.
“Saturday was probably the most frustrating because that was a game we should have won.
“We conceded four tries and they had played in zero phases, and one of them was an intercept.
“I’m confident we’re moving in the right direction and gaining momentum, and that victory is not too far off. That will then take us out of the negative spiral.
“I accept that clubs are judged on their first-team results, not on everything else, but there is lots of other good stuff going on at the club.”
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More by this authorMark Taylor