Paddy McCarthy hailed the performance of his young Crystal Palace U18 side as they impressed to see off high-flying Coventry City with a 2-1 victory at Goals and predicted a bright future for 15-year-old Jude Russell.
The Sky Blues had gone 11 games without dropping a point, but a mature performance from an extremely young Palace side saw that run come to a grinding halt in south London.
Palace’s U18 boss had particular praise for Russell and Josh Ajayi, both of whom only recently turned 15, as well as his U16 players who made the step up.
“I’ve told the lads as soon as I took the job that you have to earn the right to wear the Crystal palace jersey”, he said.
“They really are buying into that now and are putting a lot of effort into their training and throughout the week. You see the benefits of that on the pitch on a Saturday.
“I’m delighted not only with the result but the performance, especially considering we started the game with two U15s players who have basically just turned 15.
“I made the lads aware of Coventry’s run – not to scare them – just to challenge them. I knew that this would be a stern test.
“Considering Coventry were mostly second year apprentices and we’re going out there with U16s and U15s I just wanted to show them their recent run of form.
“I believed in the team that I put out there today. I knew if we put the work in we would get a result and lo and behold we got our rewards.”
Several of the Palace players collapsed to the floor at the final whistle, dead on their feet from a performance which was full of graft and determination, with no lack of talent on show either.
That certainly had a resounding message from former Eagles first-team skipper McCarthy, who was proud of his young charges.
“I’ve asked the lads in there: ‘was it easy?’ They’ve all said no. Then I asked ‘was it worth it?’ They all said yes. You have to take that with you. It’s not going to get any easier throughout your career but the rewards and the feelings that the lads are feeling in there it’s all worthwhile in the end.
“As a football club they should be proud considering such a young side we put out there.”
The no-nonsense former defender has been impressed, as many onlookers have been, with the performances of Jude Russell, who is barely 15. But he cautioned against the youngster getting ahead of himself, warning that he must keep playing well to retain his place.
“I’m absolutely delighted [with Russell]. He’s a really down to earth kid from a fantastic family and he’s taken it all in his stride. He’s quite a calm lad. I’ve said to him today and last week – and said to all the 15s and 16s – that you earn the right to get into my squad which they did with the performances in the 15s and 16s, and now if they play well they keep their shirt.
“Jude has done well in two games and he has kept his shirt. That’s not to say if his performances drop that he will be in and around the team – he’s got to keep performing to those consistent levels and if he does that he will have a fantastic future ahead of him.”
He explained a desire to instil the right values in his players to set them well both inside and outside of football.
“I’ve told them to work hard, be disciplined, and to show respect. When I took over I was conscious that I want to give them all not only a good opportunity in football but also in life, and to make them understand the values that you need.
“Those values took me through a long and successful career and I’m trying to embed them into the lads. That’s just hard work, determination, commitment and respect. I’m trying to get them to buy into that and they have.
Unfortunately the ones who haven’t aren’t involved anymore and that’s the way it is.”