Whilst the first team arrangements for the new season flounder and thrash around without any direction, United yesterday confirmed a number of changes to the Academy set-up. And on the Academy front at least, the club is hugely talkative.

Neil Redfearn will take up the role of Under-23s Head Coach at the Academy. The position previously occupied unhappily by Peter Beardsley before he was bundled out of the door amidst accusations of bullying and racism – which he continues to strenuously deny. Redfearn replaces Ben Dawson. Redfearn held a similar position with Leeds as well as managing both the Elland Road club and Rotherham at Championship level. As things stand, Neil might get a promotion in the next few weeks if things don’t radically change very quickly. That’s a guess.  Liam Bramley will work with Redfearn as U-23 coach.

Ben Dawson has switched to the Academy’s Head of Coaching and will supervise the professional development of players from 17 to U-23 level.

Mark Atkinson who has some spent some time recovering after digging his escape tunnel from Sunderland AFC (aka The Village of the Damned) to the sunlit uplands of Little Benton joins United as Assistant Head of Coaching, and will manage coaching staff and players at the U-16 level. Mark has completed cold turkey from a diet of blue pop and cheesey chips without any long-lasting side effects we can exclusively report.

Neil Winskill has become the Under-18s’ Head Coach, with Kevin Richardson remaining as the Under-18s Assistant Coach. Winskill was previously on the books himself as a young player but never made the grade. He said: “My career has gone full circle. 26 seasons after joining my club as a youth team player aged 16, I am absolutely thrilled to accept the role as U18 Head Coach. Dream job. Can’t wait to start. Exciting times ahead“.

Ian Bogie – a former United midfielder who previously managed Gateshead in the National League has has been promoted from his part-time position as Under-14 Coach to the full-time role of Under-16 Lead Coach.

As has been previously reported Lead Academy Goalkeeping Coach, Steve Harper, and Under-18s Head Coach, Dave Watson, have both left United.

Other full time coaching positions at United’s Academy include Gary Ives – Under-9s & 10s, Stephen Harrison – Under-11s & 12s, Natalie Henderson – Under-13s & 14s, and Daniel García – Under-9s to 16s Goalkeeping Coach​.

Shola Ameobi (aka the Fenham Eusebio) has taken up position as the Academy’s Loan Co-ordinator. He said: It’s going to be exciting. It’s a club that has been a part of my life for over 20-25 years and I was still coming in and working as a coach. Being a part of that over the last year or two has been great but now I’m coming in full-time and into a role where, predominantly, you are trying to help players. I have been a player myself and understand how hard it can be, especially when you are out on loan. I think it’s important that we have someone in charge of that who can help the player and the club in terms of strategy, why we use the loan system and how we can benefit the player through that system. It’s working with players that you can help to facilitate everything they need to succeed. I’m a big believer in helping each and every player regardless if they are playing or not. We shouldn’t treat them any less just because they are out on loan and hopefully I can be a big plus for them going ahead. The loan coordinator is about planning, organising and coordinating players that we’ve identified as a club who need to either go out on loan to develop them or because they need games as part of a first-team squad. “Overall, it is to help maximise their development, especially when you are talking about players who are coming through and trying to break into the first team. I think it’s important that they get first-team football and understand what it takes to play at that level and really utilising the loan system to develop our players who are hopefully ready for the first-team. If not, we can help them to have a career in the game because I think the success of a club, the development side of a club, is making sure we produce players who stay in the game and have a career in football. For me, there are certain responsibilities that I see which are key in this role. The first is to implement an efficient and effective strategy of who is ready to go out on loan, where they should be going and what level they should be playing at. I think it’s very important to have that process in place before we send kids out on loan. Different players need different things and it’s important that we fit them in the right place for what they need to develop. Another big part of the job will be to liaise with the player. It will be important that these guys who are going out on loan don’t feel like they have just been left out on the limb. It’s important that they realise that they are still part of our club and they get the same time of thought put into them and their careers regardless of where they’re at as they play here. I think that’s a big part of my job to make sure that they get the right information and are given the best environment to succeed. What we’ve seen over the past year is that we’ve got talent here and have players who teams want. The strategy for us, as a club, is to understand who needs that move or needs to stay here. We have got promising players but sending them out on loan is not always the right answer. Sometimes, mixing with the first-team and having that experience for six months might be more crucial for them at this stage of their development. It’s understanding that and getting it right before we decide who needs to go out on loan or not. My job is to make sure these players trust that we are doing the right thing by them and that they understand we are trying to help them. It’s understanding how a player feels when they go out on loan or when they feel like they are being neglected. I’ve been through that and I understand it can be hard, especially for younger players who may be on their first loan move or they are still developing in terms of their mental capacity. The psychological part of the game is important and it’s really about helping to assist them and monitoring where they are at as a person. I think this role will look at how they do on the pitch but also where their mindset is off the pitch, being able to talk to them and assist them in that side of the game. I think that’s key because I understand what it takes to go out and how to succeed and maybe not to succeed and how you deal with that side of it. For them to have someone to talk to and guide them through that is a really important part of my role and I can hopefully bring that to the job too.”

United’s Head of Academy, Joe Joyce described the changes:

Ben moving into the position of head of coaching is something where he can really focus on the coaching programme, coaching methodology and coach development, implementing his ideas on how the player development programme will evolve in the coming seasons. To assist him doing that, we have brought in Mark who has a very good reputation and will bring a different perspective. He will support Ben to enhance what we are doing at our schoolboy level. The changes have also allowed coaching staff within the Academy to move to different roles and they will be given additional responsibility and accountability for what they’re doing and, under the guidance of Ben, look to develop more players such as Sean Longstaff. They have all played a part in Sean’s development at different stages and ages over the period and will be able to continue to do that from a different position.”

We are pleased to welcome Shola, who needs no introduction. To have him looking after the players who are a step away from first team football is a great addition to the player development programme. He will be able to pass on his experience both as a coach and a player, and can educate the lads in what it takes to make the transition into first team football.”

We’re disappointed to be losing both Steve and Dave because of the knowledge and experience they both have and the qualities they have brought to their roles in the Academy. They have been with us for varying lengths of time and we will miss their daily contribution. We would like to thank them for their hard work and commitment they’ve given to the Academy during their time with us. We wish them both every success in the future.”