Wigan Athletic Development Squad update ahead of the 2016-17 season.
- ‘We need a challenging games programme for the development of young players’ - Gregor Rioch.
- Wigan Athletic Development Squad will ‘design their own season’ in 2016-17.
- Latics to face AFC Wimbledon in Premier League Cup tomorrow, tomorrow, Tuesday August 23.
As Wigan Athletic prepare to face AFC Wimbledon in the Premier League Cup Qualifying Round tomorrow, August 23, the club has announced its plans for the season as regards Latics’ Development Squad.
Peter Atherton’s team face the long trip to The Cherry Red Records Stadium in Kingston-Upon-Thames hoping to make it into the Group Stage draw on September 1, which is played out in a Champions League format of groups of teams who then face each other home and away.
Aside from this competition, the Lancashire Senior FA Cup and the Central League Cup, the side will not be part of a formal league playing competitive matches.
Instead, regular friendly matches will be organised against teams of a similar or higher academy status throughout the season, played behind closed doors matches at either Christopher Park, Euxton Training Centre, or away from home.
So far this season, the squad have played eight times as opposed to just three at the corresponding stage in 2015, a sign, according to Gregor Rioch, Head of the Wigan Athletic Academy, that progress is already being made.
“The ultimate aim of any academy is to get players through the system and contributing to the first team,” he said, “that is what we are all here for.
“We want to provide a clear structure whereby a young player can see a pathway through to the first team. Myself, Peter Atherton, the manager, the Chairman and the Chief Executive sat down in the summer and agreed that what we need is a challenging games programme for the development of our young players, alongside the cup competitions we take part in.
“Effectively, we’re designing our own season, where we are in control, we decide who we play and when this happens.
“We are certainly not alone in adopting such a policy, several other clubs operate on a similar basis at Under 21 level for all different kinds of reasons, and in fact we had occasions last season when we were offered fixtures against higher ranked academy sides which we had to turn down to fulfil league fixtures.
“It is not a decision taken lightly, but it is one we feel is in the best long-term interests of developing our young players.”
Development Squad coach Peter Atherton, who himself came through the ranks at the club in the 1980s and went on to captain the first team before notching over 400 Premier League appearances at Coventry City, Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford City, said: “Over the last 12 to 15 months, we have seen Tim Chow, Jordan Flores and now Luke Burke come through the academy system to play league football, plus James Barrigan and Sam Cosgrove making first team debuts this season in the League Cup.
“It shows you that the system is starting to work. The challenge now for those players is to push on for a regular shirt and we need to give them every opportunity behind the scenes to help them.”
AFC WIMBLEDON v LATICS
PREMIER LEAGUE CUP QUALIFYING ROUND
TUESDAY 23 AUG
KICK OFF 7.00pm
Follow the game on Latics Wall and on Twitter @LaticsOfficial.