With the 2023-24 season now well under way, Haverfordwest County’s Head of Coaching, Ashleigh Hopkins, recently sat down to talk through a busy summer and the start of a new campaign for the future Bluebirds.

It has been a summer of innovation in the academy coaching department, as we looked to improve this area by recruiting new members to the coaching team.

In August, Ben Evans took up the new role of Academy Lead Phase Coordinator. We are so lucky to have Ben. He’s a fantastic coach and a good leader, and he will also be leading the under-16s this season.

We have looked at different avenues when it comes to recruiting coaching staff, and this resulted in us bringing in two university students – Amal Mohan and Matthew George – who are both studying for a degree in in Football Coaching and Performance, as well as their UEFA B Licence. They have started the season in the Foundation Phase.

Another coach we brought in during the summer was Alex Duthie, who has spent time in the United States, studying and coaching in Pennsylvania, and he is also now studying for his UEFA B Licence. He will be working with the under-11s.

Those who have been inside the clubhouse at the Ogi Bridge Meadow in recent weeks will have noticed the new academy wall, which celebrates the achievements of our young players who have gone on to feature in the first team as well as achieving international honours with Welsh Schools and Welsh Colleges. We are indebted to Leah Humphreys, the mother of first team player Iori Humphreys, for all of her hard work and effort in designing the wall, which we’re sure you’ll agree is a fantastic addition to the clubhouse.

Screening and testing is an important part of the academy programme, and we were recently able to carry this out in a session at Pembrokeshire College, who we continue to have a strong partnership with. We would like to thank the College for making this facility available, and we look forward to using it again soon.

The development team were due to compete in the first round of the FAW Youth Cup on October 8, however our opponents Cefn Fforest withdrew from the tie, meaning we advanced to the second round stage where we will host Colwyn Bay at the Ogi Bridge Meadow on Sunday November 19. We look forward to hopefully seeing plenty of you there to cheer the lads on.

Towards the end of August, we hosted a number of Summer Camps for the first time. These were a great success and it was great to see plenty of youngsters enjoying their time in the sunshine. We will be looking to hold similar campaigns again during the holiday periods.

We are pleased to report that we now have 26 girls within our academy setup. It has been great to see such a strong level interest, and it gives us real pleasure to be able to provide them with a real opportunity to harness their love for football and enable them to develop.

We have been fortunate to receive great support from a few of our first team players when it comes to helping out with coaching in the academy. Kayden Williams-Lowe, Oscar Borg and Zac Jones have all dedicated their time to helping pass on their experience to our talented youngsters, and we are very grateful for them sharing their expertise at both training sessions and matches.

Community is a major part of what we do at Haverfordwest County AFC, and with that in mind it has been great to bring in local coaches Mark Hicks, Graham Sampson, Finn Sibbald and Jordan Williams, who will all be supporting the coaching programme this season.

We are always striving to give our academy players as many opportunities to develop as possible. One of these came in the form of the Swansea Sixes competition, which we were delighted to see our under-8s win in 2023. A big well done goes to coaches Matthew Fox and Leon Lewis for their hard work. We have also played Cardiff City at both under-9s and under-11s age groups this season, an experience which will undoubtedly benefit our players in the long run.