PAUL MILLIGAN INTERVIEW – UNDER 20’S UPDATE

A disappointing result on Friday evening against Dunfermline but having won 3 out of 3 in the league and a convincing 3-0 cup win over Bonnyrigg Rose, how would you summarise the first part of the season?

In terms of results it’s been a reasonably good start, winning 4 out of 5 games, without really hitting top form yet. Winning games does help the players confidence and confident players tend to relax and play with a more freedom, less fear and go and express themselves fully. But winning games and the expectation that comes with it does bring a form of pressure as other teams take notice of it and give that extra against us, something the players will need to learn to deal with.

It’s easy to forget our squad are all 2005s except Luca who is 2006, and Jamie Stables who is 2004, 16/17 years old playing u20s is tough going! We got a bit of a wakeup call against Dunfermline, the players didn’t reach the levels and standards they have set themselves and therefore we got what we deserved – nothing! But again, they are young and they will learn from that. Some of them now have 50 appearances at u20s football and have just turned 17 years old… its remarkable how well they have done, and just how consistent they have been – they are allowed an off night.

I must also give a special mention to Samuel and Danny from Lasswade Thistle 2007s, who aged just 15 (and I mean JUST), made their debuts against Dunfermline. A remarkable achievement and further proof of our commitment to the pathway and to giving the best young local talent a route into u20s football. A huge thanks to John at Lasswade Thistle for his help and for trusting us with his young players.

We also appointed Colin and Greg to our coaching team. They have been great additions with good insight and ideas. This hopefully means the players don’t get fed up of the same voices, drills and conversations week after week, it keeps things fresh. It is also important at our level, being Monday, Wednesday, Friday relentlessly for months on end that we can share the work load and ensure the coaches enjoy being part of the team/club.

You now have the job of picking the players up for another big game this Friday at home to Linlithgow Rose. How do you go about that after a defeat?

We had a quick team meeting on Monday before training. I simply wanted to remind the players of a few things, and to reset the thinking after a disappointing night last Friday. They can’t get to low when it doesn’t go our way, they just need to work hard and refocus on what’s next. They trained very well this week, looked sharp and worked hard. We can’t ask any more from them, they will be asked to go and work hard and enjoy Fridays game, simple as that.

Looking at the squad, a few changes this season, Tom Angus and Logan Imrie were promoted to the first team but notably Captain Dylan Waugh, who is doing incredibly well at the heart of Chris Kings defence, Is that a sign of things to come from your young exciting squad?

I hope so! Tom and Logan are now established members of the first team squad and Ryan Turner is also playing EOS first team football on loan to Arniston. All three are only 17/18 years old. David Malloy has been training with the first team and in squads for the last while, and several other u20s players have train with or played in first team this season. Dylan was my captain last season and I am absolutely delighted for him. I have always believed in him, even when perhaps he didn’t believe in himself, and really pushed for him to go and give it a proper go with our first team. He has done that, and in the games I have seen he has been a great addition to Kingy’s squad. I have stood back as they don’t want me hanging around now they are first team players, but I am immensely proud of them all, as are all at the U20s.  

There was several new additions to your squad in the summer, look like they’ve slotted right in this season, what have they brought to the side this season?

All of the new players we recruited in the summer have come in and integrated seamlessly into the squad. We only targeted players that would add quality to the group, and who have the right mind-set to work hard, as well as be technically capable and at a level to cope with this grade of football. They have all been superb so far.

Aidan Barrowman, arguably one of the most exciting prospects at the club, got a bad injury the week before the season started, how close is he to making a return and what will he bring to the team?

Aidan is an unbelievable talent, a player I would pay to watch. Every week he does things and I just think “wow”. He has incredible balance and change of direction, he is two footed, brave, strong and also very hard working which is equally as important. We miss his ability to travel with the ball, to get us up the park when we are struggling and to get out of tight situations when it seems impossible. His 1vs1 play is the best I have ever seen. He is hopefully back with the group in the next week, but unlikely to play any minutes for a while yet.

In terms of this season, what would you see as a successful campaign, given it’s only your second season and almost the entire squad is 17 years old playing at under 20s level.

 Success for us would be to continue to develop and grow as a group. To compete every week, in every game and every competition. To have players in and around the first team environment. Ultimately, signing 15/16/17 year old “boys” and allowing them the time, patience and freedom to grow and develop into “men” capable of thriving for our first team in the EOS league (or higher) is our main remit. In the last 12 months we I think we have done exceptionally well on that front, with much more to come.