Matty Blinkhorn spent one of his first weeks as Fleetwood Town’s head of academy coaching by taking some tips from Dutch giants Ajax.
The former Blackpool, Morecambe. AFC Fylde and Lancaster City striker has just been promoted from his role as youth development lead phase coach.
He had jetted over to Holland to keep an eye on Northern Irish trio Dylan Boyle, Barry Baggley and Carl Johnston, who made the trip to the continent to feature in the UEFA U17 Championship Elite Round.
Town’s academy is in its infancy, only gaining category three status in 2016 but Blinkhorn is hoping to utilise some of the things he saw while abroad.
He said: “Ajax is a massive football club steeped in history and tradition.
“I spent three days over there looking at their foundation phase, youth development phase, their professional development phase and seeing little things that we might be able to implement here at Fleetwood that they do at Ajax.
“Some little things I have taken away from it can hopefully help our own players.”
However, Blinkhorn’s desire to help drive Town forward means he will not merely restrict himself to looking at football clubs.
He explained: “I’m going to look at different sports; what can we take from different sports and implement into our programme that might make our players better movers or technically or psychologically better?
“We are a forward-thinking football club; we are innovative, we want to progress and move forward.
“Taking little bits from the best will help us but, ultimately, we are Fleetwood Town and we want to create our own programme and push forward with that.”
Spending time at Ajax and putting other sports under the microscope are all part of helping to bring the next generation of players through the system at Highbury.
Town boss Joey Barton has already shown his faith in younger players during the course of this season.
Blinkhorn believes more homegrown players coming through would be a reward for the work undertaken by chairman Andy Pilley.
He said: “The chairman has backed the club massively over the last 10 to 15 years.
“They have had a lot of promotions, they have made this amazing training facility.
“Now it is time to embed the culture, the values and produce players of our own from the Fylde coast.
“That is, ultimately, what my job – along with the rest of the academy – is going to be.
“The chairman has invested and the first team manager has been playing the players, there is a clear pathway.
“My job now as head of coaching is to get the coaches better.
“We are category three and we are hoping to go category two over the next 18 months.
“It is about making the players better and developing players from this local area.
“Ultimately, it is how many professionals you can get through into the first team.
“Throughout the nines to the 16s you look at your retention rates but ultimately we need to create better players if we are going to move forward as a football club.
“There is no point having an academy if we don’t have players through from nines to the 23s, all the way to the first team.
“That is our job and that is what we are going to look to do over the next five, 10, 15 years.”
Although Blinkhorn is focusing on taking the club’s academy forward, he also stressed the importance of making it enjoyable as well.
He said: “It goes down to the foundation phase really, what are we doing with those kids to make them learn but ultimately have fun.
“Every kid’s dream is to be a professional footballer and we want to make those dreams a reality.
“The facilities we have here will help us but we also have to link to our community trust and what they deliver.
“Can we help with that, getting kids more active in the local area?
“Further down the line we can get more kids from the local area into our academy.”