John Potter's UpdateSunday, 11th Aug 2013
Exclusive interview with the under 20s coach
It was only late April that John Potter was overwhelmed by the media's interest in his young team's SFA Youth Cup Final against Celtic but less than four months on his audience is just the website. He was pleased however to get the opportunity of expressing his thoughts especially in the wake of a good first league game win over the club he started out his coaching career.
At the end of last season coaches John Potter and Craig Dargo thought that their Dunfermline under 20s had gone out on a high with their Hampden final and that they would not have a team to field if they had to fulfil league fixtures this season. John explained:-
"We spoke with the Manager, the people who were hoping to take over the Club and with the administrators; we didn't have enough players and we thought that would be it. When you consider where we were as a club and the league that we were going to be in, we thought that was us.
"We started the season that way as well thinking the same thing but then the Manager came down one afternoon just a couple of weeks ago and said that they wanted us back in, what did we think?
"Obviously it would be a good idea but we were a bit tight on numbers and that was going to be a problem. It is always better to play in a competitive league and you want to play against the best players. That really helped the players last year. It was a surprise but it is good to be back in it."
Potts had planned the pre season fixtures for the under 20s, taking on Rangers and two junior teams - Rosyth and Oakley United. The fourth game against Glenrothes had to be cancelled after the invitation to join the SPFL U 20 league. Instead of their Fife neighbours the Pars were pitched straight into battle against the team that finished fourth in the SPL U20 league last season.
Celtic eventually ran away with the 2012-2013 campaign but after the champions only Aberdeen and Hibs had finished any better than the Paisley club. St Mirren were welcome opponents for the Pars opening match since it was them that Dunfermline defeated in the semi final to reach the SFA Youth Cup final. John Potter had started off his coaching career at St Mirren and the opposition included some of his prot?g?s so as always there was that little extra desire to win. Dunfermline fought to the end and clinched a 3-2 win that gave the u20s coaches and former Buddies something to smile about.
"We had a virtually a brand new team, there was only Lewis Martin and Scott Mercer who played in the final last season. It took us a wee while to get going and although we played okay first half, they were the better team. Then as soon as we lost the early goal in the second half I thought we were brilliant for the next forty minutes.
"We played really well, we were on the front foot, we were the ones who were creating the chances and the ones who wanted to win the game. I wasn't sure about our first penalty but we got it anyway. The other one was a stonewaller and it was good to get a win. We were pushing for the victory and it was great to win it at the end."
The penalties were scored by Jordan Moore, on loan from Dundee United and the winner at the end by Robert Thomson who was also at Dundee United. The Tannadice assistance has extended to another two young on loan players, defender Luke Johnston and midfielder Ryan Ferguson. Potts feels that these loanees will help the under 20s just as much as they will help strengthen the first team squad.
"They will help with numbers but they will be wanting to play in the first team and will be pushing towards that. The Manager stressed that they are not coming in as guaranteed first team players, nobody is.
"If they are not involved in the first team then they will obviously be with me in the twenties. If they are involved in the first team then they will be pushing people out to come and play in the twenties. The Manager made the point that it is good to have a competitive league where we know that we are playing every Monday or Tuesday night.
"There will be players stepping down from the first team to come and play but at the same time we will have a core group of five or six apprentices. It will be great for them to play a full year at that level."
John has stressed to his new group of young players that Allan Smith, Ross Millen, Kerr Young and Shaun Byrne have played youth football for two seasons but now they have made the step up to the first team.
"You need to have that kind of base and not expect to be in the first team right away. If they can do it week in week out at this level then the Manager will take an interest in them."
The young players have been integrated into the first team squad for training that is principally under the instruction of Neil McCann and John Potter. The slightly older professionals who are there are supportive of the young boys who have been warned to pay attention and not disrupt any training sessions.
"The Manager, Neil and myself have been impressed. They have worked really hard and got really fit."
The under 20s will also be looking down to see what talent might be emerging from the under 17s and Potts was pleased to field one of them, Jordan Orru, as a second half sub against St Mirren.
"I am helping take the under seventeens this year as well with Stephen Wright and Grant Petrie so I know them. That is quite important because I am going to be using them quite a few times this season and I need to know who can play where and who do what."
It is important for the youth set up at Dunfermline that a pathway remains open to the first team squad no matter how long that takes.
Next up for the U20s is Rangers away on Tuesday night (13/08/13). The match will be played at the Bet Butler Stadium, the home of Dumbarton football club. Playing at stadiums, against good players and in a competitive league is not the whole job however. John continued:-
"I made the point to the players last season that they have to make sure that they are a team as well. If you get good team performances then the Manager will take notice and they can get in about the first team. That is what happened last season and could happen this year, although it is slightly different.
"We will be a young under twenties team this year, it will be basically eighteen year olds with a few over age players. I am confident that we can compete because we have good players here. They came in for the final five or six games of last season when it was tough with two games every week but that will stand them in good stead for this season."