Barry Nicholson is hoping to start a production line of young talent at Fleetwood Town, having taken control of their new development squad.
Nicholson was on the playing staff at Highbury for Town’s first Football League season, released at the end of the 2012/13 campaign.
He played last season for Kilmarnock in Scotland but hung up his boots to take on his first coaching role.
Another former Preston man on the Fleetwood backroom team, Nicholson is desperate to make his mark at the club and help young talent break through into League One.
“It’s new to us all,” said the 35-year-old midfielder. “It’s that stepping stone between the first team and the youth team, and it’s really important.
“We’ve got six lads signed now – five outfield players and a goalkeeper.
“It’s really important to keep bringing players in. We’ve been looking at a batch of trialists and we’ll make a decision on them.
“We’ll keep looking to bring players in. But the youth team have a great chance too – both the first and second years.
“If the manager thinks they are good enough, we’ll bump them up too.
“It’s a great chance for the young boys to take that next step before they are thrown into a first-team role.”
Nicholson is perfectly placed to take on his new role, having worked hard to pick up the necessary coaching badges.
He’s wasted no time in getting started, recruiting the core of a squad, but he admits there will be more bodies needed if the development squad is to become a legitimate path to the first team.
“I’ve taken my badges and I’m doing my advanced youth licence,” added Nicholson. “It’s come at a great time for me.
“Looking at the lads, they’ve got great fitness levels and they are really good. But it’s going to be a lot of hard work.
“We’ll show them what they need to do to make that step up to first-team football.”
Moving from playing to coaching seemed the natural next step for Nicholson, who jumped at the chance to rejoin Fleetwood Town.
And he revealed he turned down offers to carry on his playing career to take charge of Fleetwood’s young guns.
“I’m delighted to be back at the club,” he said. “The manager has given me a great opportunity to take the new development squad, which is in between the first team and the youth team.
“It’s great to be back and I’m really looking forward to it.
“The only thing I had to think about was hanging up the boots.
“I played last season in Scotland and I had a few offers to play on for another year.
“But to be fair, as soon as I spoke to the manager here and he told me the plans for the role I was going to be taking, it was a bit of a no-brainer. It was a really easy decision.
“I made the decision before the club won the play-offs. Sitting watching that, hoping for the club to go up, made it all the better.”
And Nicholson made it clear boss Graham Alexander will have a hands-on role as Town look to produce more home-grown talent.
Nicholson explained: “The manager is desperate to see the development squad as much as he can.
“There’s no league as such but we’ll arrange as many games as we can. He wants to see these lads step up, and if he feels they are ready they’ll do that as soon as they can.
“He’s already said to me he wants a progression from youth team to first team.
“If the boys are doing well enough and if they are producing the goods, he’ll have no problems in moving them up.”
One of the players hoping to break through is Fleetwood boy Richard Wright.
He’s been on the fringes of the first team since Town won promotion to the Football League over two years ago.
Nicholson believes the new development squad might prove his path to a long professional career.
He said:”I knew Richard when I was here as a player and he was in the youth team.
“I worked with him when I was out of contract. His attitude is brilliant and he’ll be a big player for the development squad.
“It’s great to see a local lad do so well. I’ve told him that as soon as he’s ready, we’d love to see him make that next step.”