Under 20s: Friday night’s alright for Atkinson as season gets off to flying start

Posted on Thursday, September 9th, 2021

The conveyer belt of age grade aspiring footballers making their way through the Spartans Academy ranks into Les Atkinson’s Under 20s side offers the perennial excitement of Friday night football with many keen to turn the Ainslie Park floodlights as spotlights on their own pathway to the Lowland League side.

Atkinson has been one of the key architects of success at the Spartans Youth set-up for more years than the modest Head Coach will care to let on, however the well respected figure is beginning a post-lockdown journey with a relatively new squad enforced upon him by a lack of football over the last 18 months due to the challenges of the Covid pandemic.

It’s been an excellent start to the Conference A campaign, with Spartans the early frontrunners following a five match unbeaten record which includes two clean sheets in the process.  Despite his charges racing out of the traps like a greyhound chasing the electrified hare, Atkinson offered a dose of realism about what his expectations are for the period ahead.

“It’s the start of a new three year period for us.  We’ve got a young squad this season with a number of talented players coming up from the u17s.  It’ll be a slow burner for us and we will inevitably blow hot and cold along the way, that’s just how it works.

“So far in our games we’ve seen some excellent passages of play and we’ve had some scrappy elements too. However, the team have gelled well and have been winning in different ways.

“Ultimately though, it’s the players learning how to develop in these games – getting their positional sense and how to shape as a team.  I think the season will simply evolve as we go, that’s what really excites me.  There’s no great expectations and we are happy where we are just now and we’re looking forward to seeing how we progress and grow.”

The enforced break has brought disruption in many ways to many aspects of life however Atkinson is optimistic that being back coaching and seeing youngsters back enjoying football is already reaping rewards.

“Like probably most clubs at the moment, the start of the season has been a bit disjointed due to players subject to Covid isolation and general unavailability.  We’ve never really had that ultimate opportunity to have a full squad together but it’s been great seeing how the players have reacted to that and there’s a great togetherness – well, perhaps a socially distanced one – in the dressing room.”

There have been a few players who have caught the eye during the first handful of games for those who enjoy their Friday night’s under the lights.  One of them is goalkeeper Miko Komochi. 

“I’m really pleased to see Miko progressing”, notes Atkinson, “he pulled off two fantastic saves in the recent win against Civil and he’s one to keep an eye on as he’s going to be a top keeper.”

There are many new additions to the Development League this Season, with Spartans in Conference A, one of 6 divisions hosting no fewer than 88 teams across the board.

Atkinson’s side will come up against some familiar faces on the circuit once again, but there will be a host of new clubs where intelligence on the opposition will be in short supply.

“To be honest, we will focus on our own team first and foremost but so far, a number of the games have been pretty close and even.  This Friday we take on Alloa and we’ll expect them to be a well drilled outfit and up there with the rest of the top teams.”

Friday’s game at Ainslie Park kicks-off at 8pm.  Admission is free.

Next Fixture

Date: Thursday 13th August
Opponent: Edinburgh Uni
Competition: Lowland League
Kick off: 3.00pm

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