By Jeff King
After a successful first couple of preseason opportunities for the first team we caught up with First Team Head Coach Didier Agathe to get his early thoughts and comments as we approach the kick-off to the first Wearside League game of the season.
I started by asking Didier for his thoughts on Saturday afternoon’s 6 – 4 win over Northern Alliance opponents Ponteland United. A game which saw United come back from 2 – 0 down to go 5 – 2 in front before Ponteland netted twice to make the game close.
The goals coming from the excellent Micky Spellman with a brace, hard-working Cameron Brewis and Ebenezer Adoo who also scored twice with his first one being an incredible effort. He picked the play up deep in his own half and went on a mazy run past several tackles before dinking the ball neatly over the onrushing Ponteland keeper for a wonderful finish.
A late scorching right-foot drive from John Anderson giving United youngsters the goal to seal an entertaining win. It was a great and invaluable workout not just for the players but the coaching staff as they reviewed potential additions to the first-team squad.
“It was a good game. It’s still preseason so it was good to give some of the younger ones and those that didn’t play at Huddersfield on Friday some game time. I was pleased with the result obviously but it’s still preseason and we’re trying to get everyone match fit and see who fits in at the same time.”
“We have some talent here and my job as I told them is that I’ll see them one on one and if they’re good enough they might get a place in my squad. I can also try and find them a trial at professional teams. That’s what I’m here for. They need to train every day and show what they have.”
United had taken a very young side down to Huddersfield Town on Friday and only lost 4 – 3 to a mix of Town’s Under-19s and B Team in a commendable show that Didier was very pleased with.
“They were really nice facilities at Huddersfield and we started the game quite well and after twenty minutes we looked very tired. But that’s normal because we’re ten days to two weeks into hard training with the boys.”
“We made some changes at half-time with fresh players coming on which we wanted to do as we’d taken 17 players down. The game was quite different. The good things about it were Huddersfield came to see me after the game and they want to look again at Reyhan Grimaud.”
“Reyhan actually played for them against us and they asked me some questions about some of our other players. Manchester United were also scouting there. They said they’ve seen a lot of Academies and thought ours was one of the best (Park View Academy of Sport).”
“This shows what a great job we’re doing here. Not just me but all the coaching staff and Lewis (Pendleton) as well and we have a great set-up here which is improving all the time. So, it was a good experience apart from the result! I think we showed some good talent and the way we play football people seem to like.”
“It was a last-minute invite to go to Huddersfield to play and we also knew we had this game on Saturday. So, I decided to split the group in two and some played Friday and some played Saturday.”
“When you look back on Friday and Saturday it was very good for all the boys as they managed to play and I’m quite pleased with what I’ve seen so far.”
Next up is Tuesday night’s home friendly against Durham United at The Washington Football Hub with the game kicking-off at 7:30pm. This will be the last preseason game before next Saturday’s opening Wearside League game at Annfield Plain. I asked Didier if that would have a bearing on his selection for Tuesday.
“I will talk with my staff as obviously we’re approaching the first league game. I think we need to find as quick as we can our best starting XI and the fittest ones. We probably need another 2 – 3 weeks to see everyone and get them to the 100% fitness terms. But as I say I’m quite pleased with what I’ve seen so far and the talent we have.”
After Tuesday it will be down to serious business and the visit to Annfield Plain in the league. A game that Didier is excited for.
“We are ready for it or we’re going to be ready for it. The boys know the formations we want to play and what I’m expecting from them. This Saturday will be good to get started as there is such a good project behind it all.”
“It’s not just about winning the league it’s also about making sure we can open the door for the young talent we have whilst I am here. It can be Celtic, Everton, Leicester, Manchester City as well as Huddersfield.”
“We have a partnership with Huddersfield so they do have the first choice but the boys we have know that if they do well here it can open gates for them for them so that’s good.”
With Rehyan looking to to sign for Huddersfield and Harrison Clark already starting for Arbroath in the Scottish Championship after being signed by SPL side Livingston and then loaned out the pathway is already beginning to reap rewards.
“It shows that the job done by the coaches before I arrived was good. Reyhan has come from another academy but Harrison did come from ours and what I did for Harrison was just opened the door.”
“He was the one that got through it and it showed the big part that the coaches here at Chester-le-Street played in it. We have some very good coaches here and on top of that we have Lewis (Pendleton) and John (Gamble) who have created a very good Academy.”
“For me it’s also an opportunity to learn the Manager’s job. Not tomorrow buffer now I’m very pleased about it and how it is all going.”
Sometimes good things come from humble beginnings and this certainly seems to be the case for Didier Agathe and all at Chester-le-Street as the Club and all involved embark on what they hope will be a very successful season.