Southampton B 'in middle of something powerful' after title win

Dave Horseman (left) and Lee Skyrme (right) have led Southampton's B Team this season

Dave Horseman (left) and Lee Skyrme (right) have led Southampton's B Team this season

SOUTHAMPTON B are “in the middle of something really really powerful” after being crowned Premier League 2 Division 2 champions, according to coach Dave Horseman.

The team's 5-2 win at Norwich City, combined with Leeds United 2-1 defeat at West Brom, meant Saints topped the final table on goal difference. Horseman was B Team Game Coach for the majority of the season before being promoted to first-team duties under Ruben Selles in February.

After that Lee Skyrme, who had been U18s Individual Coach, took charge of the side.

Horseman told Southampton’s official website: “People like Matt Hale (Academy Manager), Matt Crocker (former Director of Football), Kirsty (Whitton, Assistant Club Secretary), the people that actually don’t get any mention that have built this programme for years and years, they deserve huge credit.

“They have put something in place which has made the difference and the boys have bought into it and the staff have bought into it.

“We’ve been stood on the side when we’ve got beat 8-1 away at Man City and 7-1 against Leicester and probably a lot of people were doubting what was going on.

“This is definitely not the end but we’re in the middle of something that was set up that was really really powerful. They deserve a lot of credit - Kirsty deserves a lot of credit, Joe the driver. Some of these kids have come through from eight-years-old and the Academy has done a magnificent job to get a lot of homegrown players to this point and win a national league.

“It’s an amazing achievement. At the start of the season we talked long and hard about maybe finishing in the play-offs. In the second half of the year in particular things have changed so much with staff and players, so to win the league is a massive credit to everybody and well deserved, because I think we were the best team in the league.”

In 2020, Director of Football Crocker introduced the B team and also a system of Game Coach (responsible for preparing the team for matches) and Individual Coach (responsible for the development of players).

Horseman was B Team Game Coach, with Skyrme hired from the Football Association as Individual Coach. Skyrme stepped up to become Game Coach when Horseman was promoted to first-team duties.

He has since been assisted by Olly Lancashire, who is a coach and over-aged player for the team.

Crocker, who has recently left Saints to become Sporting Director for US Soccer, explained that the change from U23s (now U21s) to B Team was more than just a name change.

He said that the B Team would:

  • Use the same style of play, training methods and coaching as the first team, based on the Southampton Playbook.
  • Have training organised so as not to clash with the first team, enabling the first-team manager and his coaches to watch and actively participate in training sessions.
  • Primarily play at AFC Totton, in order to get “regular experience of a stadium environment”.
  • There would be movement of coaches between the B Team and first team.

Crocker added: “Academies can be seen as a club within a club, and the biggest thing we wanted to do as a starting point was to connect the top of the Academy with the first team.

“The one thing I wanted to look at was to create an environment where our young players can see they are one step away from the first team. From watching the U23s the previous season when I was at the FA, the style of play looked very different (to the first team).

“What that means is that you are not necessarily able to prepare the players to have the full toolkit, so when they do step up to train and play with the first team, they understand the style and system and what’s required of them physically, tactically and mentally.

“There was definitely a void between those two styles of play. I guess one of the big wins was to come in and really remove the U23s from the Academy and place it as a B team connected to the first team.”

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