Lewes FC is discontinuing its men’s Development Squad ahead of the 2019-20 season, as the club seeks to streamline the pathway to the first team.
Following Steve Eke’s resignation as Development Squad manager, the club undertook a review of its entire youth set-up. After consultation with Darren Freeman and his management team and Under-18s manager Dale Hurley, the decision was taken to discontinue the Development Squad and focus on developing the talent coming through our double-winning Under-18s side.
Discontinuing the Development Squad has the following benefits for the club and its players:
Less risk of youth player ‘burn out’ – We’ve been concerned for some time that our most talented Under-18s players were not only playing for the Under-18s,college sides, Sussex representative sides and – sometimes – County League sides, they were also being asked to play for the Development Squad. This move puts less demand on young players whose bodies are still developing.
Fewer games on the pitch – A big focus for the club over the next couple of seasons is to improve the condition of the Dripping Pan pitch. We’ve brought in new contractors, as well as experienced groundsman Dan O’Rourke, to work alongside the legendary Roger Feltham and improve the condition of the playing surface. Disbanding the DS will take around a dozen games per season off the pitch, allowing more time for the pitch to recover after games.
Reduced costs – Although the decision to disband the DS was taken for football, not financial, reasons, there are costs benefits to having one fewer teams. The club will save money on kit, officials fees, transport, floodlighting and other areas.
The decision to cut the DS is by no means a sign that the club is putting less emphasis on developing its own talents. Three of our rising Under-18s stars – Dylan Gifford, Ross Barclay and James Waters – have been handed contracts for the 2019-20 season as Darren Freeman looks to develop them into first-team players.
The club also plans to launch a new Boys Academy for the start of the 2020/21 season in partnership with Plumpton College.
The club is also seeking to strengthen links with County League teams in the area to give our most talented youngsters who are not yet ready for the demands of Bostik Premier League football a chance to play at a senior level.
Darren Freeman fully supports the move. “With no disrespect to Steve Eke, who has done a magnificent job with the DS, we think this move will actually help the development of young players.
“The majority of the young players who have broken into the first team over the past few years have come from Academy or Under-18s level –players like Charlie Coppola, Ronnie Conlon, Harry Reed and the boys we’ve put on contracts this summer. By the time they’ve reached 18s level, you can normally tell if a player has the quality to make the first team.
“We absolutely want to keep developing youth players and –when ready – give them opportunities in the first team.”