Czech tour perfect preparation for new U18 season, says Richards
Gary Richards believes Swansea City Under-18s' participation in the Generali CEE Cup in the Czech Republic has got the squad into a competitive mindset ahead of the new season.
The team arrived back in Wales on Thursday night after playing four games in six days in Prague, opening with a draw and defeat before winning their final two matches against Hungarian side Vasas Kubala Academy and Czech outfit SK Slavia Prague U19s.
Richards hailed the tour as a fantastic opportunity to bring the young squad together ahead of a tough first season in category one football.
“It’s been a terrific trip from all angles - the pitches and stadiums have been fantastic and the organisers of the competition have been great to work with,” Richards said.
“Preparing for the new season whilst taking part in a European cup tournament has given our pre-season a different edge.
“The games haven’t been just friendlies. Every match over the past week has meant something and that has put us in a competitive frame of mind.
“Our time in Prague has also given us an opportunity to implement some things we have been working on in training into games."
He added: “I think the boys have done well. We went into the competition with a young squad. Whereas a lot of the teams we faced had players who are 18 or 19, we have fielded teams with 16 and 17 year-olds.
“It has been a challenge but we have been competitive in every game. Both Cameron (Toshack) and I are really pleased with the way the team has conducted themselves both on and off the pitch.
“It has also been a great opportunity for our new squad to gel together both in a football and social sense.”
The young Swans next face Chelsea in their final pre-season friendly on Wednesday before the season starts at home to Leicester City in the Under-18s Premier League South on Saturday, August 8.
“The work does not stop from this point,” Richards continued. “We will be back on the training pitch this weekend preparing for our game away at Chelsea.
“We played them this time last season. They are one of the very best at this level and the game will give us a very good idea of what the standard in category one is like.
“Football at this level will be a whole new learning curve for us. We will need to learn fast but being at this level will improve us as an academy.
“There is no doubt we have some of the best young footballing talent in Wales, our academy is growing every season.
"Every season we improve and get better - this season should be no different."