Swansea City Under-21s Gary Richards Premier League Division Two
2nd May 2016
Gary Richards has called on Swansea City's Under-21s to build on their achievements from their first year in category one football ahead of next season.
The development squad won 12 matches in Premier League Division Two, which included a seven-game unbeaten run that helped them earn a play-off place via a third-placed finish.
Despite the impressive performances that saw them net 18 goals in their last five league outings, the Swans lost 2-1 to Aston Villa in the play-off semi-final at the Liberty Stadium last week.
Despite the disappointment, Richards believes the squad have learned a lot from the step up and must keep striving to move forward.
"We have achieved a lot this season and everyone involved with the football team can be very proud of themselves," he said.
"Despite the disappointment of last week's defeat there are plenty of highlights to take this season, including our home game against Derby where we came from behind to win. That victory started our play-off push.
"We have also had one of the best defensive and attacking records in the league with a number of players taking the step up to feature consistently for us."
The development squad's first season in category one football was also an opportunity for the some of the Swans' younger academy players to feature for the U21s.
Five academy scholars took the step up to play for the development squad throughout the campaign with a number of players securing loan moves to clubs in the Football League.
"Our main goal is to develop players for the first team," added Richards. "Both Cameron (Toshack) and I firmly believe that some of the group can take that next step.
"A number of younger players have had the chance to develop. Daniel James, Joe Rodon, Aaron Lewis, Jack Evans and Lewis Thomas have all had chances to take the step up this year.
"Other players have also been able to secure some loan moves to the Football League - Oliver McBurnie (Newport and Bristol Rovers), Adam King (Crewe), Liam Shephard and Connor Roberts (both Yeovil) are just a few that stand out.
"Connor has done exceptionally well as he has made over 50 appearances in the Football League."
He added: "Overall the team has performed well this season. We are very proud of what we have achieved. It has been a team effort on and off the field with a number of people behind the scenes including our analysts, coach David Adams and Academy Manager Nigel Rees.
"We can't stop expecting more - the last thing we want to do is stand still. We must strive to keep developing and moving forward.
"We have to keep on building for next year. We will get over the disappointment of the play-off exit, reflect on the season as a whole and then look to improve on each area for next season."