United Academy boss Fran Constancio hails progress made by the club’s Girls teams and hopes they will one day form the nucleus of a senior side.
The Second Meadow club currently boasts Under 15 and Under 14 Girls teams, with the former recently winning the prestigious Woburn Tournament by beating Watford in the final.
The victory was testament to the rapid strides being made by our youngsters under the guidance of Constancio, as well as fellow coaches Natasha Rolt and Phil Smailes.
However, speaking following the victory, the Spanish coach outlined how the 2016-17 season should merely be a stepping stone on the road to United’s ultimate ambition of fielding a senior Ladies’ team.
“The target is to not stop their development, trying to improve each aspect they need to improve and keep having this atmosphere that we have as a collective,” Constancio remarked.
“Because at the end of the day, the most important is that they feel to be part of something.
“We need to think that there is a potential group of players which in a few years can be our first Ladies team, so our target can be short term on next season and long term in three to four years. Our dream is a bit closer.”
There are currently around 20 girls regularly turning up to United training, held on the artificial pitches at Knights Templar School in Baldock, as Constancio continues to encourage the development of the women’s game in Bedfordshire.
However, the coach from Valencia explained how United initially had to overcome several issues that threatened to jeopardise the growth of the Girls teams.
“When we started last September 2016, the U15s had no more than seven to eight players per training session.
“I think there were some concerns about whether this season would be successful with some players from last season leaving to join the MK Dons Academy.
“We also found out we were going to lose our most talented player for a whole season with a knee injury.
“We joined the U14s, who were coming from Biggleswade Youth. Phil, their coach, was training on different days to us with no more than eight to nine players per session.
“Looking at both teams, I got the feeling that if we put them together all players would get a benefit.
“I had a conversation with Phil about it and we were agreed after two minutes. Since that moment, we have had two teams that train together but play as only one team.
“We’ve made big progress. Now we have 20 girls playing football and having the same identity.”
As well as competitive action, the girls are given comprehensive coaching by Constancio, who is a UEFA Pro License coach and was brought to United on the recommendation of the world-renowned former Liverpool assistant Pako Ayestaran.
And the Spaniard took time to outline the footballing philosophy he tries to instil in his young players.
“We try to create training sessions where they can improve on their skills – physically, technically and tactically.
“Also, we want them to understand the game and when to take a decision, and if this decision is not the right one.
“If they make a mistake, we try to show them which other options they had at that moment to help them to choose the correct one next time.
“We know the players we have, we know our strengths and our weaknesses as a team and as individuals. Having three coaches with them at training or during games allows you to help the players more.”
As well as the dream for United to one day put out a full Ladies team, Constancio is also hopeful that some of his young proteges have what it takes to make a professional career out of football.
“There are some players with good potential. There is still lot of work to do but hopefully from this group there can be more than one player making a career.
“We are there to help them and we will give our best in each session to help them.”