Bob Davies spoke to Shrewsbury Town Under-18s manager Kyle Kirby back in September and discussed his role at the club and his aspirations for the season.
A new face in the Shrewsbury Town academy set-up this season was Professional Development Phase coach and Under-18s manager Kyle Kirby – a post that predominantly focuses on Town’s Under-18s team as the latest crop of Salop youngsters look to force themselves into the first-team picture.
Having spent 16 years within the Walsall academy system in various roles, Kyle made the short hop across the county; joining Town with a wealth of knowledge and experience – linking up with the Shrews following a restructure led by Academy Director David Longwell.
With Town’s Under-18’s starting the season in fine form with four wins from the opening four EFL Youth Alliance League fixtures, Kyle is pleased with the group he is coaching and is looking forward to seeing how our players develop over the course of the season.
“It’s a massive achievement for the lads to have started the season how they have done,” said Kyle. “There has been great work and support for the Under-18s behind the scenes going on with all members of the staff in terms of what the Under-18s are pushing for - the start to the season has been well deserved. The lads are in a good place at the minute and have shown good performance levels.
“In the first half of the Tranmere Rovers fixture, it was probably below the standards that we demand but overall we’ve shown good consistency in our performances. They’ve also shown good consistency in their behaviours and how they deal with minor setbacks. They’ve also shown the right attitude in dealing with things when they’re on top. They are keeping their feet on the ground and they are continually working hard.
“From a staff point of view, the players know what we are going to bring and demand from them. We expect a certain level of performance and the lads won’t drop below that - the consistency is there. We concentrate on the performance as a unit and individually. Generally, when the performance is there, the results tend to take care of themselves. Our players are really hungry to win and we want to do well. We always emphasise being better than we were last week. We’re always looking to do more and not settle.”
With a clear ethos in place and a direct pathway into first-team football for high-achieving youngsters, Kyle feels encouraged with the start of the season and hopes his knowledge and experience can help Town’s talent progress into the next step of their footballing careers.
“We have some key players who have been doing really well,” added Kyle. “Hopefully some of those lads will get their opportunity to dip their toe in training with the first team, as others have. They have to earn that right and all of the lads are working hard. They have shown a good level of application in games and in training. They’re very coachable, they want to learn and improve; they never want to settle.
“From a staff and coaching point of view, that is a massive trait for them to have. When the lads work their socks off in training, they’re only going to get better. We want our players to play with high intensity, press high and look to play forward at every opportunity. We want to be quick in transitions, both in and out of possession. We go into every game looking to penetrate the opposition defence at the earliest opportunity.
“The current Under-18s are very promising but we need to keep our feet on the ground because it’s very, very early on in the season. They’re an honest bunch of lads and we don’t see any of them getting carried away with themselves – even when they experience being around the first-team environment. There are definitely areas to improve on, which the players are hungry for and that will help them further down the line. The players who are currently in and around the first team are setting a shining example for our lads who want to achieve the same. The opportunity is there to do that, and the pathway is extremely important.”
Since this interview took place, seven of Kyle's academy players have earned themselves a place in the first-team matchday squad, with even more enjoying training sessions with Steve Cotterill's side - a testament to the fantastic work Kyle and his team of coaches have done since the start of the season.