NFYL Southern Premier Champions 2019-20

Academy Director Bobby Bowry looks back on the season with the A team

It was clear from the start just how focused the group was and their unity was there for us all to see during the early training sessions and the pre-season games. This set the tone for what was to come.

In our first game of the season in the National Football Youth League, our boys blew away Peterborough, going three goals in front in a twenty minute spell and then coasting to a 5-2 win. The squad and coaching staff benefited a lot from being together during our first long distance away game at Plymouth which ended up with us recording a resounding 6-0 win. We continued to play well until we had our first blip against a strong Brentford squad who took both their chances and beat us 2-1. This would turn out to be our only league defeat. The squad took this setback in their stride and went on to win their next ten games which enabled us to establish a ten point gap at the top of the table. We were never headed from that point on.

For me, there were two standout games in this period. The first was a 3-0 win against our principal rival and bogey team, JMA Reading, who had reigned supreme for the two previous seasons. The second game was at Norwich which, in my view, was the perfect performance against a really good team very well coached by two former professional players. We won the game 7-0 which obviously guaranteed a great trip home. Unfortunately, we came back down to earth with a 3-2 Cup defeat away to a powerful Carlise team in a game where we let ourselves down in a fifteen minute spell in which we conceded three poor goals. Nevertheless, the journey and the overnight stay were a great opportunity for the squad to gel further, particularly since we took a mixed group of first and second year scholars.

The most obvious quality of both squads has been their continual hard work in training and it has been an absolute pleasure for all the coaching staff to be around them all this season. They all deserve massive congratulations for winning both the NFYL Premier and Reserve leagues. In a year in which there were many outstanding performances, I feel that the consistency, ability and quality of four players in particular has stood out. Kareem Benkaymal scored twenty-one goals and is the best 1v1 dribbler I have worked with. Mo Dabre is the best player I have worked with in terms of his energy and desire. Charlie Greenwood took his game to another level and was controlling games from his midfield position. Peter Mendes can play in any position; he began under the radar because the squad as a whole was playing so well but he then scored five goals in three games at the end of the season.

If the boys maintain their standards we will be the team to beat again next season.