Emergence of u23s talent has taken the pressure off Slough's summer recruitment

Photo by Darren Woolley

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The emergence of talented u23s academy players has taken some of the pressure off Slough Town’s summer recruitment, with joint manager Jon Underwood believing four or five of them are potentially good enough to step into the first team next season.

The Rebels squad has around 17 senior players, but it’s being bolstered by several younger, academy players who last month lifted the Suburban League Shield after defeating Aldershot Town u23s 3-2 at Ascot United’s Racecourse Ground.

Baker and Underwood have replenished the Rebels squad this summer, with Freddie Grant, Jonathan North and Tom Derry all bringing seasoned experience at this level to the club. Two talented midfielders, Matt Lench and Scott Davies, have also returned to the fold after spells away, while 20-year-old midfielder George Hunt signed for the club this week after his release from Championship side AFC Bournemouth.

However, it’s the emergence of a talented crop of younger players that’s excited Underwood, and he’s keen to give them a pathway into first team football.

“It’s been great to be honest,” said Underwood. “We’re all in a really good place. New faces have come in and gelled very well. Five or six of the u23s have been with us. They’ve also fitted in well and are enjoying playing with the senior players.

“We don’t carry a huge squad. Some clubs have 28 players on their list, but we’re not there, that’s not what we’re about. We’ll have our 17-man senior squad and that will be complimented by four or five of the u23s. It’s a huge bonus for us. Normally, at this stage you’ve got a lot of triallists in your squad, and you keep players you’re maybe not sure about because you want good numbers for the friendlies. But we’ve got our own young players to call on this time. It’s certainly taken away the need for us to build the numbers.

“If we didn’t have the u23s, we would never go into the season with a squad of 17, but we’ve got that trust in these players, whether they come off the bench or go straight into the side. Some of them have a real chance this year.

“I think filling your squad with player who you’re not sure of, rather than giving a pathway to younger players is not the right way to go, and we’re really pleased we’ve got this pathway for these players.”

It’s been a busy week for the Rebels, who kicked off their pre-season friendly matches with an entertaining 5-2 win over Badshot Lea on Saturday before drawing 1-1 with Bracknell Town on Tuesday, Max Worsfold netting the Rebels’ equaliser.

Academy players Gabe George - who this week signed a new contract with the club - and Lewis Pegg both started against the Robins, and they and other u23s players will be hoping to get more senior minutes under their belt when Slough host Binfield tomorrow evening (Friday).

“We still needed experience in the squad and our three main signings so far, Tom Derry, Jonathan North and Freddie Grant, are seasoned players at this level,” added Underwood. “And we’ve also welcomed back Scott Davies and Matt Lench, but the u23s players is giving us an extra dynamic if you like and it’s working really well.

“Players are still coming available and being offered to us by agents and we’ll have to keep our eyes open, and, if we can improve the squad we will do.”

Underwood accepts it’s been a difficult time, both financially and mentally, for a lot of people, but he’s hoping Slough fans return in their droves to support the team this season.

“I’m sure the fans will be really keen to get back,” he said. “Obviously, everyone has been impacted differently over the past 18 months, but hopefully people can dig deep to buy a season ticket.

“I hope that by the time August comes around everyone will have that urge to get out and watch live football again, hopefully off the back of an England win in the Euros with people in a much happier place.”

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