It’s the end of another calendar year for the U23s side, the eighth year under the EPPP system that sees them continue as a Category One club.
2020 has been a successful year for Billy Barr’s side, who have seen a number of their players progress into the first team, whilst the stars of last season’s FA Youth Cup run have been successful in making the step up to the U23s.
We’ve taken a look at the numbers across the year, looking at the results, goals, assists and more to recap over 2020.
Note: All statistics apply to the Premier League 2 and Premier League Cup fixtures only
Life On The Road
It’s been nothing short of an impressive year for the U23s this season, as they remain without an away league defeat since 6 December 2019, meaning Billy Barr’s side have gone a whole twelve months without a loss on the road.
Their only defeat away from home this calendar year came in a Premier League Cup defeat to Middlesbrough, but with a weakened team out and Rovers’ place in the knockout stages already confirmed, it was never going to be a result to be concerned about.
Rovers are the only side without an away defeat since the start of the year, and long may it continue.
The Squad In Numbers
Turning our attention to appearances, Billy Barr used 44 players across the course of the calendar year, with a mix of U23 regulars, U18 players and first-team squad members making up the side.
Northern Ireland U21 international Lewis Thompson leads the way in terms of appearances, featuring 17 times in the 18 league and cup matches – missing the Lancashire Senior Cup tie at Burnley due to being out on loan.
It has also been a positive year for Daniel Pike and Sam Burns – who both featured in the Youth Cup run for the U18s – making 13 and 12 appearances respectively.
Futhermore, a number of first-team players made appearances for Barr’s side, helping their recoveries from injury and providing some much-needed game time.
Most Used XI (by appearances per player):
J.Eastham (7), D.Pike (13), S.Barnes (11), J.Saadi (11), L.Thompson (17), I.Whitehall (13), B.Lyons (11), B.Paton (11), S.Burns (12), C.McBride (10), L.Brennan (10)
Full List Of Appearances:
|11||S.Barnes, B.Lyons, B.Paton, J.Saadi|
|10||L.Annesley, L.Brennan, C.McBride, S.Mols|
|7||H.Carter, J.Eastham, J.Vale|
|4||F.Boyomo, J.Hilton, T.Magloire|
|3||J.Buckley, J.Davenport, J.Garrett, Z.Gilsenan, D.Wright-Phillips|
|2||B.Brereton, D.Butterworth, C.Doyle, A.Fisher, S.Hart, R.Smallwood|
|1||D.Ayala, L.Cirino, B.Dack, T.Dolan, B.Johnson, C.Mulgrew, J.Nolan, B.Pleavin, D.Samuel, D.Williams|
Billy Barr’s side scored 31 goals across 2020, with 17 players registering at least one goal or assist. Midfielder Brad Lyons has impressed across the calendar year, and contributed to more goals than any other player (nine goals – seven goals and two assists).
Meanwhile, Connor McBride has impressed since his switch from Celtic, registering eight goal contributions in his first ten appearances for the U23s.
The U23s has been a welcomed break from first-team action for Harry Chapman, who hasn’t been able to hold down a regular place in Tony Mowbray’s side. The talented winger has contributed to five goals this year, averaging one goal or assist per appearance.
Full List Of Goals And Assists:
|2||L.Brennan, H.Chapman, S.Durrant|
|1||B.Brereton, T.Dolan, J.Grayson, |
S.Mols, J.Nolan, B.Paton,
D.Pike, L,Thompson, D.Williams
|2||B.Lyons, C.McBride, S.Mols, |
|1||J.Buckley, S.Burns, J.Davenport, |
|1||B.Brereton, J.Buckley, S.Burns, J.Davenport, T.Dolan, J.Grayson, |
J.Nolan, B.Paton, D.Williams
Is It All About The Results?
At times, it has been tough for the U23s this season, falling to defeats against Arsenal and Tottenham, but we must remember it isn’t always about the results.
The key part of the U23 side is getting the players used to the first team’s playing style and formation, and bringing through as much talent as possible – and we’re doing a fine job of that.
It has also provided the platform for the talented U18 side to make the next step in their football career, making it an even more successful year.
Yes, it is good to see the side winning, but when you consider the teams that we come up against year on year, the job that Billy Barr, Stuart Jones and the rest of the staff do down at the academy is exceptional to say the least.
Barr’s side sit just one point off Chelsea in the Premier League 2 Table, and with both meetings between the sides scheduled for the final two matchdays, the race for the title could go right to the wire.
|3||Man City U23||10||29:19||18|
|9||Man United U23||11||25:28||15|
|13||West Ham U23||10||12:20||5|
There is no Premier League Cup or Premier League International Cup fixtures scheduled with the season shortened, so all the focus will be on Rovers’ league matches.
One factor to consider is the amount of first-team fixtures, where several members of the U23s may be called up to the first team set-up to supplement the main squad due to injuries or COVID-related issues.
We could also see some of the U23 stars head out on loan in the January transfer window, with the likes of Brad Lyons and Joe Grayson mentioned in potential deals.
Whatever happens in the remainder of the 2020-21 Premier League 2 season, the U23s have done the club proud, and the coaching and academy staff will deserve all the praise they get.
Thanks for reading.
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