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All eyes on Maidenhead United youth with York Road's 'Mr Football' Aaron O'Brien

Neil Maskell

All eyes on Maidenhead United youth with York Road's 'Mr Football' Aaron O'Brien

Aaron O'Brien discusses Maidenhead United's Development structure with Neil Maskell

Aaron O'Brien is York Road's 'Mr Football'. Whether it is Saturday afternoons with the First Team, midweeks overseeing the Development sides in his role as Academy Manager and coaching at BCA or a Sunday morning playing park football, AOB is rarely far away from a football pitch. And on long away trips you will find Aaron glued to Football Manager on his Laptop!

Aaron was appointed as MUFC Acadmey Manager in the summer, a role which will dovetail with his First Team duties. Aaron is an experienced coach now, as he explains he wound down his own career at a young age: "I played local junior football in Reading until I was 16 then I signed for Holyport FC as a goalkeeper. As well as playing for Holyport, I played for Maidenhead United Youth Team alongside (current First Team assistant manager) Sam Lock. Whilst at Holyport, we won back to back Norfolkian Junior Cups. I represented Berks & Bucks and had one or two trials but I knew early on I was not going to make it professionally which was my ambition. I decided at 19 to stop playing and pursue a career in coaching".

That coaching career started at our near neighbours Burnham. " I received a message from my old junior manager Dave Knight about becoming his assistant for the Burnham Youth Team. When we went to meet the chairman they did not have a Reserve team manager so Dave stepped up with immediate effect and I was then offered the Youth Team managers job. I was manager for 2 years before I was offered the chance to coach the Reserve team with Mervyn Lloyd (currently at Chalvey Sports) where we won the Hellenic Division Two East at the first attempt. In the second season I was then asked to help out with the First Team and started coaching them under the stewardship of Martin Stone and Laurie Craker. That year we won the the Evo Stik Division One title with a certain Ryan Bird scoring 40+ goals. I was still Managing the Youth Team at this time so I was really cutting my teeth at all different levels of the game. During my fifth year at the club Burnham were going through a lot of difficulties financially. After 5 years my time had come to end and I loved every bit of it. This led me to Maidenhead United".

It was a conversation with a former colleague which opened up the opportunity at SL6. "I was approached by Sam Lock to come into the Maidenhead set up. Sam had recently become the gaffer's assistant and they wanted me to come in and run the Youth Team alongside Aaron Steadman. I knew people at the club from when I played there as a Youth Team player. Halfway through the season I was asked to step up to the first team which has led me to my current role. Right place right time".

Aaron continued to work with the Youth Team alongside his First Team commitments and the side enjoyed great success: "We won the league in our first season. Two Allied County Cups followed with the highlight being a 1-0 win over Beaconsfield who we had a rivalry with due to their involvement with the FAB academy. The biggest highlight would be seeing players that I have worked with progress and either represent the First Team or sign professionally with clubs. This is the most rewarding part of managing and coaching at a youth level".

Aaron's role is now titled as Academy Manager and he explains: "My main day job is running the Maidenhead United U19 Academy programme. Alongside this I also teach the players on a day to day basis. In addition to this I oversee the running of the Youth Team and Under 16's and watch them play to keep a close eye on their development and ear-mark any potential players who can make the step up to the First Team. I will run training sessions from time to time and help out match days when my first team commitments allow".

To help Aaron with his work, two new coaches have been employed to work with the Under 18s: "Ivan Harper was my assistant at Burnham when I was manager of the Youth Team there. In the last 10 years we built a strong relationship. Ivan has been involved with junior football for 10-12 years so his knowledge of good local young players is second to none. Christian (Parker) and I first met when he was a referee for Youth Team games. After games we got talking and this is where I found out about Christian's experience in coaching. I chose Ivan and Christian because I trust them to carry on the work I have done. We have similar beliefs and ideas in football which will benefit the young players we have coming through the Youth Team. Both are very organised and know how to run and set up a team properly."

Aaron explained to us a little more on the Development structure 2018/19. "The Under 19s play in the National Alliance Youth League which play on Wednesday afternoons. This is set up in conjunction with the BCA where young players can gain qualifications and develop as footballers and represent Maidenhead United. Good players from here will then go a train with the first team. The Under 18s play in the Allied Counties Youth League which is a midweek evening league against other youth sides around the area. The Under 16s are set up as a new team each year. We hold trials and invite players to come to the club. This allows us to work with a set of players in hope that some of them will be able to progress to the Youth Team and they understand what is required of them to make the step up."

Aaron told us that his target this season is "To make sure that all three development sides are as professional as possible and give a high quality of coaching which can develop footballers on the pitch as well as of it. If we can do that in a winning environment then fantastic as I believe it is important for players to have that winning mentality. Going forward, my ambitions are to build an Academy that has a structure of Under 7's all the way up to Under 19's so we can nurture and develop players from a young age. I hope that the partnership between Maidenhead United and BCA can continue to grow and utilise each others strengths. I hope that one day we will be able to have a permanent base where the first team and all age groups can train at the same venue and really give a feel that we are all one club."

It is a big week ahead for the Development side of the club as the Under 18s will travel to Oxford City on Thursday October 3 at the start of their FA Youth Cup campaign. Admission at Court Place Farm, OX3 0NQ will be £3 adults £1.50 concessions. The young Magpies would appreciate your support!

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Basingstoke 0, Maidenhead United Academy 5

Maidenhead United Academy made it back to back wins in the National Alliance Youth League with a dominant 5-0 win over Basingstoke.

Dominik Sowa scored his third and fourth goals of the season, taking his tally to four goals in two games.

George King, Giovanni Sarconne-Caynes and an own goal completed the scoring.

The Academy travel to Andover for their next fixture looking to make it three wins from three.

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