The best is yet to come – FCV coach Ben Watts
Ben Watts was new to life at FCV Academy at the start of this season.
Coach Watts followed Academy manager Grant Brown through the door and, since the pairing entered the UK’s first international football academy, the players have experienced a steep learning curve both on and off the pitch.
The educational process comes as a standard for a player at FCV, but it isn’t limited to just them. Since joining, Watts – formerly of Northampton Town and Peterborough United – has learned a lot himself, partly thanks to working alongside Brown and returning coach Ian Sampson.
“Joining FCV is the best thing to happen to me in my time in football,” claimed Watts.
“Life at the Academy has taken me out of my comfort zone to develop and learn. Grant Brown and Ian Sampson have been class, as have all the staff. It’s a really enjoyable place to work and the squad have a real togetherness.
“We’ve made sure that we do things the right way before and after games. We win and lose together and that’s rubbed off on the boys, there’s a massive mix in nationalities and cultures in the changing room but they’re all buying into what we’re doing. I fully expect us to really kick on after Christmas.”
The run up to December hasn’t been the easiest for the squad, though - they’ve won four of their last 10 games, losing four and drawing two. But they've come from behind on numerous occasions to salvage a result – most recently a draw against Watts’ former employers, Brooke House College.
Match report: FCV produce another comeback to salvage a draw against Brooke House College
That result followed a comeback victory over Mansfield Town Brooksby, when FCV overturned a two-goal deficit to win 3-2, and Watts has attributed the late spark in the team's performances to the fitness work going in on the training ground and in the gym.
“Myself and Grant know the importance of fitness and have put the right schedule in place,” explained Watts.
“The players like to moan about the fitness sessions, but you can really see the difference in them during our matches. Our energy in the last two games has been phenomenal, to put in those performances twice in the space of three days is very pleasing. They were both fair results, it was good to not get beat from the positions we were in.
“It’s frustrating that we’re going behind in games. We’re working hard to sort that out and fix the errors that we’re making. We’ve not been beaten by good goals or a well-worked move, it’s been down to us and the players know that. We know we’ve got goals in the team, we’ll always score, it’s just a case of keeping them out at the other end.”
One reason for the recent tough spell could be the standard of opposition the side has faced. FCV have been testing themselves against professional academies regularly, something that gives the players both exposure, and a view of the levels they need to reach.
They have come up against academy outfits from Lincoln City and Mansfield Town of late, drawing 4-4 with the former and losing 6-2 to the latter.
“These fixtures are all about the experience the players get,” he said.
“There are no three points at stake. The boys get the chance to put themselves in the limelight and show what they can do. We want them to show they can offer something different to what the academies already have, something that will earn them a call back.
"We’ve been beaten by sides but the boys haven’t done themselves any harm or been embarrassed. We’ve got more fixtures planned so there will be more opportunities.
“To have played the teams we’ve played already is brilliant and a really good experience for the team. The sides we’ve faced have been at different levels.
"Mansfield was a very tough test against some older and more physical players, whereas Lincoln was very different – they were technically very good. We’ve got more tough games to come, so we want to set the bar high and keep going.”