FC Halifax Town: Nichol wants to forge stronger links between youth team and first team

FC Halifax Town's title winning under 19s team
FC Halifax Town's title winning under 19s team

Town’s head of youth development Steve Nichol says there will be a stronger link forged between the youth side and the first-team.

The club’s youth team have had a successful couple of years, having won their league, reached the second round of the FA Youth Cup and reaching the League Cup final.

But Halifax are yet to produce a first-team regular from their youth development programme since reforming.

However, Nichol believes the club’s move to full-time and having manager Jamie Fullarton, who has worked in youth development at previous clubs, in charge of the senior side, will benefit the youth team.

“With the first-team now being full-time and having a manager who has a background in youth development, there will be a close connection with the first-team and a lot of work in alignment between the two,” Nichol said.

“The programme we have is very good. There are areas we would like to evolve it, maybe looking at playing the odd game on a weekend and be more flexible when we train.

“We had a very good squad last year, but we now have an opportunity to align it more with what the first-team manager wants and linking with the system he plays.

“Hopefully as we move forward any players who step-up will have a better understanding of what is required of them when they step into the first-team environment.

“There is a balance between development and winning, they do go hand-in-hand.

Winning is a by-product of development.

“The first-team priority is winning and the development work they do is secondary to that.

“Whereas at youth-team level, of course we want to win, but we want to develop players with that as well.

“There are elements where we have to align with the first-team, but there is scope where we can include other aspects.”

And that alignment includes Nichol himself, who will combine his role as head of youth development with assisting Fullarton and the first-team.

“Towards the end of last season and in pre-season the manager has asked me to support him, which on a personal level, is great to be able to watch him up close as he’s a fantastic coach,” Nichol said.

“It also helps give me a better picture of what he’s asking from the youth programme.

“With the move to full-time it has been all hands on deck for everyone at the club to make sure the transition has been smooth.

“It’s a completely new club and there’s been a lot of hard work behind the scenes that doesn’t necessarily get recognised, but that will hopefully bring results on the pitch.

“The results may not be instant but all the right things are being done to increase the chances of being successful.”

Nichol says it has been a difficult summer for the youth programme, with player recruitment proving tough.

“It’s been a hard summer,” he said. “We had a settled squad over the last two seasons. Two years ago a lot of the first year players were in our squad and they continued that last season.

“We have a new squad coming together now.

“We’ve worked really hard on recruitment and had a few curve balls.

“We had one player who we were really excited about who had agreed to sign for us but we couldn’t get international clearance because of the level we are at.

“He has now returned to Belgium and is on trial with Club Brugge.

“Logistically a couple of other players have struggled to make the commitment due to travelling or the type of education we offer.

“But the lads are back in pre-season now and are working very hard.”

Nichol has also had to deal with the task of trying to replace youth team manager Mark Trueman, who has joined Bradford City on a full-time basis.

“The timing of Mark leaving hasn’t been the easiest with the club going full-time over the summer, we have been stretched with that,” Nichol added.

“Mark has played a big part in establishing the youth team programme. He was a part-time coach for two years and then worked full-time with us for two years.

“The programme has been very good for him as it allowed him to coach every day and coach in a lot of games, so he has honed his ability as a coach at a good level of football.

“But he became close with Michael Collins, who is now manager at Bradford, and worked part-time with their under 15’s while Michael was the under 18’s coach.

“Working at Bradford will also give Mark the opportunity to work towards his a-licence.

“We worked very hard to try to do that here, but we’re not at a high enough level.

Mark did have full-time offers from Bradford previously that he turned down to stay with us.

“We’re very thankful for the work he did here. His departure does give us the opportunity to perhaps freshen things up and evolve the programme to meed the needs of what we want between the first-team and the youth team.”

Town’s youth team start their season in September. If you are interested in joining the youth team programme, email stevenichol@fchalifaxtown.com.