THE 1874 COLUMN – by Matt Waters

THE suspension of non-elite football has had a wide-scale affect for all clubs, especially 1874.

Outside of our first team, we have a thriving youth set-up which has been halted due to the pandemic.

Over the past three years, we have seen significant developments in our under 21s squad managed by Joe Lally.

In our last game before lockdown, we ended our 7-2 victory over Sandbach United with six members of our 21s squad on the pitch and Joe told me he is delighted with the progress the team has made since his arrival.

He said: “For me it shows how well as a team we have done.

“Two or three years ago we would never be in a position to give the first team so many good young players to make the difference against another North West Counties side.

“It doesn’t come down to me but it’s a credit to Paul, Wayne and the players themselves.

“The players we’ve been able to recruit have been excellent this year and they deserve the chances they have been getting.”

“I love non-league football. For me as a young coach at this level, it’s not about winning or losing but is about the development of the players and me as a coach.

“You see players finding themselves and that has been one of the best things.

Joe revealed he is incredibly grateful for his relationship with our first-team managers, especially Wayne Goodison.

“I met Wayne at university – he saw what I did and he got me involved with 1874.

“He’s had a really positive impact on me. He’s always there when I need any advice and on a personal level, he has helped me a lot.

“It’s great for the players seeing Wayne around because not a lot of clubs at this level would have their first team manager running training sessions for them and showing an active interest.

“Look back at the Sandbach game, when we go to recruit players in the future it shows there’s a natural pathway into the first team for these young lads.”

On the pitch, it’s been nothing but positive for Lally’s side, who currently lie joint top of the North West under 21s development league picking up 10 points from 4 games with a game in hand their opponents.

After such a strong start, Joe told me he was frustrated that this lockdown has killed their momentum.

“At under 21s football you don’t get that long to spend with a squad before you have to refresh it and this season, we felt that it could have been our year to try and win the league so to stop already is frustrating,” he said.

“We’ve played some excellent football so far and I believe that some of the players we have could go far in the future.”

“It’s about our players development at the end of the day so when we can play again we’ll be ready.”