Halfway through Crystal Palace's first Premier League 2 season, Under-23s' manager Shaun Derry reflected on a testing challenge, how his side has adapted and the pride he feels at them doing so in his matchday programme column.
You can read what he had to say in full below, and buy official matchday programmes here.
Firstly, we signed a number of new recruits in the summer. We brought in six new players who have all contributed to the Under-23s in different ways. Ultimately, we’ve gone up into a different level of football – into Category 1. With that different level, you get tougher competition.
We’ve faced better players and come up against better teams, so we’ve had to raise our levels. At times so far this season we’ve been able to do that and, at others, we’ve been disappointed.
But I would say my overriding feeling on the first part of the season is pride. It’s pride at being able to compete at this higher level and play at the standard we’re playing at.
If you rewind the clock 12 months, we had a predominantly Under-18s team playing Under-23s football. It was a challenge for them because it was a lot more physical, but it helped in terms of their development as young footballers.
It’s allowed them to adapt to a full-time programme as Under-23s and push themselves a little bit more.
Of course, we know not all of the lads will become the player they want to be. This is, after all, an uncompromising line of work. But we also know there are some brilliant highs and they, as coaches, are seeing some of the boys recognised with training on the first-team site.
Looking at 2021, I regard our aims in three ways: performance, results and recognition. If you can keep performing at a high level, that allows results to be favourable.
I want us to look at results because I need the lads to understand that, in football, they do matter. Winning breeds confidence and confidence breeds higher performance levels and when you have those you get recognised more.
When you get recognised more and go over the road, you can take your skillset to the senior management team and have a chance of staying with them. That’s the primary objective.
Finally, with the ongoing Academy work, we’ve benefitted from seeing the site develop around us and strides are being made every day.
We’re now playing home games on the new show pitch and more often than not we’re training on the new training pitch. They’re both game-changing enhancements.
When you’re training on those surfaces and recognise there’s a fantastic development taking shape around you, you quickly realise that if you’re smart, your levels are going to dramatically improve. It’s a brilliant time to be involved with Crystal Palace and I have no doubt a brilliant year lies ahead.
Hear more from Derry, Paddy McCarthy and others by ordering Palace programmes here!