Academy squad finished impressive third in Cayman Airways International Youth Cup

Gillingham FC’s Schoolboy Development Manager Bryan Bull has praised the Academy squad that finished third in last week’s Cayman Airways International Youth Cup on the Caribbean island.

The rewarding but tiring week for the team – largely comprising last season’s U14 squad players - finished with a penalty shoot-out win against Jamaican side Harbour View to clinch the final podium place in the tournament.

Only a penalty shootout defeat to group A winners and eventual runners-up Tottenham Hotspur (5-3 following a 0-0 draw in extra time) denied the Gills team a place in the final.

Writing for the GFC website, Bull commented: “It was an absolutely fantastic week for all who attended. I was delighted with the attitude and approach of all our young players for whom it will have been an experience I am sure they will never forget. 

“They have had a huge insight into the demands that will be placed upon them if they wish to progress in the professional game, and the habits they will need to develop as they go forward.”

What made the team’s achievements more notable is how the players reacted to the long-haul flight and conditions in the Caymans. 

“The really pleasing aspect from my point of view was the sheer resilience that the group showed,” Bull added. “Their first game took place against the eventual winners in 75°F [24°C] at 8.30pm local time, following an 18-hour trip the day before, and didn’t finish until approximately 4.30am UK time. 

“Following this, the other two group games of 70 minutes apiece (including one played in temperatures above 90°F) meant the players had played 210 gruelling minutes in four days prior to the semi-final versus Spurs. 

“This game was played at a tempo that the local spectators found compelling, and was truly competitive, and we might consider ourselves a touch unfortunate not to have won it in normal time.  

“But to go and play a further 70 minutes, plus another 20 of extra time, the following day and win on penalties [in the third place play-off] absolutely delighted me. 

“The staff who travelled with me [Jack Hughes, Bryan Taylor and Jimmy Strouts] all deserve massive credit for the skill, knowledge and enthusiasm that they bought to the week. 

“Finally, the hospitality shown by our hosts and the generosity of the sponsors of the competition is something that all of us are massively grateful for.”

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