Players like Finn Tapp and Oran Jackson are beginning to reap the rewards of MK Dons’ U23s set up, says Edu Rubio.
Tapp, 19, and Jackson, 20, have featured in cup competitions in Paul Tisdale’s side this season, with Jackson in particular catching the first team manager’s eye at centre back.
David Kasumu, Brandon Thomas-Asante, Sam Nombe and Dylan Asonganyi have also been in and around the first team squad under Tisdale, having spent significant time in Rubio’s development squads last season.
Rubio, former head of academy coaching at Dons, says having as many different phases between the U18s and the first team can only be beneficial for the development young players to ensure they are ready for the pressures of a first team environment.
“Fans always want the best – they want the Premier League,” he said. “From a development point of view, it’s very important. The more layers you have before the first team, the more different exposures you have to be a better learner and a better player.
“From U16s, you go into U18s, and from there at some clubs you go into the first team. It is so important for us to have U23s for players who could so easily have been lost in the system. I would even go as far as saying we need an U19s team.
“At 15, 16, you know who is going to be a player. Until that age, you’ve developed him as a person, but it’s only after that, you develop them as a footballer.
“They’re not going to be a cricketer, or a rugby player, then live the football life, but there are only two squads before the first team!
“So anything you can put in between the U16s and first team is a blessing for these players.
“For us this year, it’s all about consolidating what we did last year, maximising the likes of Finn Tapp, Oran Jackson, David Kasumu, Liam Sole, Brandon Thomas-Asante and Sam Nombe – the players who will have more of an impact in the first team, while trying to develop the three or four players in the U18s who have the chance to get into the U23s next year.
“It’s not so much about the team – of course we want to win and be competitive – but it will be about getting individuals ready to have a relevance in the first team.”
Developing individuals for his games also means Rubio must conduct himself in several different forms to the various types of player he has in his U23s squad at any time - from first year pros to first team regulars eager to get some game time.
He continued: “My behaviour has to make it like a first team environment
“I have to think more as a manager or coach than a developer because what the players require is to go out and win the game.
“My coaching has to be tailored to their needs, and that’s more about tactical scenarios, but for the young players, I need to tailor my behaviour about the certain outcomes in their development rather than in the game itself.
“As a coach, the U23s is a great challenge. In the U18s, you’re there to develop. In the first team, you have to win games. In the U23s, you need to mix both – you need to organise to win the game, but the U18s are young and are in a different pathway.
“You’ve got three or four different types of players in a squad for the same game, so your thinking has to be much wider.”