Youth policy still in action, says City boss
- Credit: Archant
James Gray insists St Albans City is continuing its policy of breaking youth products into the first team despite a wealth of experienced talent in the squad.
Last season City’s squad was stretched to the limit, forcing joint managers James Gray and Graham Golds to give Elliot Bailey, Matt Taylor and James Kaloczi first team action.
To say the 18-year-olds, all of whom attended schools in St Albans, performed superbly would be an understatement, a fact the club recognised by signing all three to contracts.
This year, however, their chances to appear in the first team have been limited; mainly due to City’s activities in the summer as the club signed more experienced players and built a bigger squad as they go in search of promotion.
They did get their chance on Saturday, however, as they came off the bench in the 6-1 thrashing of Enfield Town in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup.
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Kaloczi replaced Ben Martin in the heart of the defence and made an impressive cameo, heading the ball clear on a number of occasions while showing the kind of poise on the ball that persuaded the club offer him a contract.
Taylor played in an advance role and almost scored with his first touch, only to see it whistle past the post. His ability to find goalscoring positions was on show later in the game but he couldn’t apply the finish.
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Bailey, who was injured at the start of the season, also had a sight of goal but his shot from outside the area thundered against the post.
It was another impressive showing from the trio, which did not go unnoticed by the management.
“James came on and did superbly and Matty Taylor could have had a hat-trick in the last 20 minutes if not for poor finishing. We do work on it in training because he springs well from midfield and he’s got goals in him; he’s just needs to take care but that’ll come.
“And Bailey, he scored twice in the reserves in the week so these lads can see that if they play well in the reserves they’ll be in [the first team],” he said.
Gray admitted the most difficult aspect of developing the young players was managing their time in the first team.
“We’ve got some much quality but these young lads are pushing the first team all the way and you can see that in Wednesday night’s result in the reserves, with the likes of Danny McCarthy and Joel Watson, from Oaklands Academy, playing well.
“These young boys are coming through and we still have the nucleus of young boys pushing to get into first team.”
And while we may not see the likes of Kaloczi, Bailey and Taylor every week, Gray maintained they will get chances to shine in a yellow jersey this season.
“We put them on contracts for the long term, which bodes well for the future,” he told the Herts Ad.
“They know they’re not in first team every week but we wanted to put them in there [against Enfield] and have a look and all three have done superbly.
“They’ll get their chances, it may not be every week but that’s the nature of young players; you can’t expect them to play the whole season.
“But we’re really pleased with them.”