Justin Walker has praised the performance of his Derby County Under-18 team as they ran riot in a 5-1 win over Manchester United at Moor Farm Training Centre on Saturday afternoon.
The manager commenced by expressing his delight towards his players, who demonstrated the perfect attitude in their second win of the season after defeating Middlesbrough 4-1 before the international break.
“For me, it’s always about the performance,” Walker started. “We pride ourselves on a particular standard that we showed today, and I am absolutely delighted for the lads.”
They had to wait a little longer than normal to build on their previous win against Middlesbrough.
A two-week break could have stopped the Rams from building momentum after they recorded their first win of the season, but Walker believes the short time away might have helped the team in the long run.
He said: “You always want to try and create momentum and we weren’t able to build upon that because of the break, but what it did allow us to do, was to reflect on the season so far and look at how we want to move forward.
"We were able to give the players a real insight as to why they’re here and what we want them to achieve individually and as a team.”
Since a change in formation, the Rams have earned two wins from two.
In an attack-minded switch, Walker switched from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 shape and couldn’t be prouder of how the team has adapted to the change.
He gave special mention to strikers Bartosz Cybulski and Jack Stretton who, he admits, are having to learn a new way of playing.
“I made the changes to the team in the last game and I think we started to see the positives then. Today, I think they have developed that even further, but the lads deserve all the credit for how hard they’ve worked. They’ve had to adapt after I changed it to a 4-4-2 and they’ve all taken to it really well,” said Walker.
“It is part of their education. I spoke to Bart [Cybulski] and Stretton at the beginning of the season and asked them if they had ever played in a two. I think they said that, between them, they had only played in that way twice in their whole career. So, they have had to adapt and develop an understanding between each other, and they are starting to do that.”
Full of praises and compliments, Walker commended his coaching staff for playing a large part in the recent victory.
He said: “A lot of credit must go to the set-plays. Ross Atkins does a lot of work with the group on that and it showed today. They are always so important and can sometimes make the difference, particularly in games like this. It just goes to show how much they have been listening in training because we got four of our five goals from that today.”
Finally, Walker finished by looking to his side’s next test against Stoke City next weekend.
“First, we will enjoy the weekend - as I always do after a win – and then come back on Monday and reflect on the game and have another hard week’s training in preparation for that game,” concluded Walker.
Words by: Joseph Lightfoot