Tony Humes has Youth on his side

THE role of Tony Humes, Colchester United’s Head of Youth, has never been more crucial to the club’s stability.

Ex-Ipswich Town defender Humes took great “satisfaction” in Alex Gilbey, the skipper of his youth team, putting pen to paper on a two-and-a-half-year professional contract only last week.

Humes believes that Gilbey’s deal, with the emphasis on long-term commitment rather than short-term experiment, sends out a positive message to the rest of the U’s youth team set-up.

“It’s a huge statement,” enthused Humes.

“Everyone involved with us, either as an apprentice or a schoolboy, can see that it’s not only words (from chairman Robbie Cowling) but also practise, because Alex has been given a two-and-a-half year deal, as a 17-year-old.

“Lots of boys coming out of an apprentice system just get offered a one-year deal.

“They are left knowing straight away that they are under pressure when they come in, because they are more or less thrown straight in at the deep end, to sink or swim with the professionals, some of whom will have had 15-year careers already.

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“It’s a huge step up for them.

“But I think we have the right structure here, so we can give players two or two-and-a-half year contracts.

“That sends out the message that you are not under pressure straight away, and that you don’t have to go straight into the first team.

“There’s time for you to progress and develop, and bring out your talent,” added Humes.

Humes joined the U’s as Head of Youth in the summer of 2009, after eight years of working in the Ipswich Town Academy, including a spell as Academy manager from 2006.

The 45-year-old, who rattled up 140 first team appearances for Ipswich (1984-92) as a tough-tackling centre-half, and then more than 200 for Wrexham, was certainly not surprised that Gilbey was offered a long-term contract.

Humes revealed: “Alex was one of those who stood out when I first came here, when he was an under-15 player.

“We saw a lot of natural ability in him, and a lot of natural athleticism, technically as well.

“To be fair to him, he has got a great attitude, he applies himself very well and he wants to succeed. He wants to push himself.

“The determination and the desire to get to the professional level, in kids, is paramount. Alex has taken everything in his stride, and he has got a real chance in the game, as long as he keeps the same attitude,” concluded Humes.

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