Baldock Town growing through pre-season as they plot a special year
- Credit: DANNY LOO
Baldock Town's pre-season has gone pretty much to plan despite some tough opposition and if manager Rob Bates has any say in it, it could be the start of a very special year.
The Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division side have faced off against a number of step four sides in July, teams for the division and league directly above them, and bar a disappointing outing against Welwyn Garden City, they have not been overrun.
That should stand them in good stead believes the boss.
Bates said: "We have had a good pre-season. We’ve played Heybridge, Welwyn and Berko and other than the game at Welwyn, I didn’t feel we were too far off.
"I’m relatively happy. We’ve got a young squad, a very young team, and they are learning from every game.
"And as long as they do learn from their mistakes, we could be a team that maybe is pushing for the top.
"They are great lads and you can’t fault their work-rate. In the heat we had through the middle of July, they gave me everything.
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"I believe they will learn."
Bates has always been one to focus on developing the talented youngsters at his club and with a team like Baldock, he feels that is a necessity.
He said: "I’m all about the youth. Small clubs like ourselves have to rely on the youth.
"Dave McAdam has got the youth system set up and it is working. The majority of them are Eastern Junior Alliance teams which is the best standard to play at and we want a conveyor belt of players coming into the first team.
"Last season I had four or five coming in from the U18s and this pre-season I’ve had another four coming in from the U16s who won the EJA league.
"It is working.
"I go and watch a lot of the youth games and there are some great players in there.
"Hopefully we can keep hold of them."
Alongside any talented youngsters though, you need experience and players who can stand up for themselves in the rough and tumble of the SSML.
Bates has got them too with the Reds showing a noticeable size difference in their game with Welwyn Garden City.
The boss said: "At this level you have to be physical. The smaller lads are quick but the big fellas play a big part in this league.
"It is a hard league to get out of and if you look at the teams who have won it, they have all been pretty big sides.
"And experienced, because experience counts for a lot.
"I had two 16-year-olds playing against Welwyn and you could tell. But it is also about progression and developing.
"In two years' time they will be featuring week in, week out and they will be top players for us."