SINCE his appointment as Woking Academy Manager in June 2015, Scott Harrison has overseen plenty of progression within the youth ranks of the junior Cards, writes Lewis Winter.
Last summer he made the bold decision of forming an under-23 side – or ‘Woking Reserves’ – and placed them in the Suburban Premier League to give players as young as 16 their first taste of men’s football.
The young Cards, who have often been joined by members of Garry Hill’s first-team such as Chike Kandi and Frazer Shaw, have not disgraced themselves and are mid-table with eight games remaining.
The under-18s and under-19s have had enjoyed more success, with both competing for their respective league titles. The under-18s have also reached two semi-finals; the first of which will be against Chessington & Hook United or Westfield in the Surrey Youth Midweek Floodlit Cup.
And Harrison couldn’t be happier with how it’s gone in his second campaign in charge.
He told the News & Mail: “It is exciting. It’s been a better season than probably we were expecting.
“We knew we recruited better, we lost some good players at the start of the season; some of those were educational reasons, while others were not prepared to fight it out.
“To be fair the boys who have come in, were lads that we didn’t really look at first of all because we went and found other players, but to their credit they’ve stepped up to the mark.
“It’s now about how far they want to take it. Reaching two semi-finals this season and also fighting on two league fronts too, I don’t think I could ask for more. Hopefully we can finish the season by winning something,” he added.
Harrison admits lifting a trophy would be the icing on the cake for him, his staff and his playing squad, but he knows his ultimate aim is to nurture players for the first-team.
Charlie Carter is the most recent example of the academy’s success, being a regular under Hill this season.
The Surrey Senior Cup has given several more of Harrison’s squad a chance, with centre-back George Brown, midfielder Declan Appau and the exciting and versatile Charlie Hester-Cook all having appeared for the first-team.
“We have to think what the reason is and what we are doing it for,” said Harrison.
“We want to get players into the first-team; we want to support Garry Hill and Steve Thompson with players. They have been brilliant in bringing players through and trusting our judgement.
“I think Charlie, George and Declan are good enough to make it – as long as they stay grounded, do the simple things and listen to experienced players around.”
Thompson showcased his support by watching the under-23s defeat Uxbridge 2-0 last Thursday, casting his eye over the future of Woking FC.
Harrison is hoping all his players have what it takes to make it in the game, but knows it’s a tough task for anyone aiming to be the next Charlie Carter.
“I hope they all are the next Charlie Carter,” commented the Academy boss.
“But they have to understand it is a hard level to play at. Charlie went away, worked on himself physically and made himself bigger.
“He seems to have learnt the game and he’s listened and worked hard.
“My players need to do the right things and take their opportunities like Charlie has.
“There’s a pathway in [to the first first-team], but they have to keep believing that we are doing the right things,” he added.