David Clegg Meets With U16s’ Coach, Danny Barton, To Preview Their Forthcoming Season
With the start of their brief season only a few weeks away, Salford U16s are now coming towards the end of their pre-season preparations, which have been ongoing since the last couple of weeks in November.  This consisted, initially, of around ten training sessions together, followed by a period of individual work over the Christmas period.
Photographic evidence of this was required of them all, in order to satisfy coach, Danny Barton, that they had carried out all that they had claimed to have done, though he assures me that the likelihood of any of his players not undertaking this with the required vigour is not only unlikely, it would be immediately evident, upon their return to training.
“They are all young lads who are especially keen to play for Salford, and they all realise the importance of hard work in achieving this,” he confides, “so there should be no problems at all.
“If anyone has not worked hard it will show up immediately because they will all be subject to testing, upon our return, to verify just how much improvement they have made over the Christmas period.”
Even on their return to the first session in late November, Danny had been struck by the progress they had made playing for their amateur clubs, since they had last played here in March, last year.
“There had been a general, all-round improvement,” he reports, “which is testament to the hard work put in by the highly dedicated coaches at their home clubs.
“Those first few weeks of training were extremely useful, as it enabled us to recognise some of the attributes, in terms of talent, work ethic, and even persona with those who are leaders, as opposed to those who prefer to being led, coming to the fore.”
The environment to which they returned, was, however, significantly different from the one which they had left, earlier in the year, following the demise of the Academy team.
“Not having an Academy has affected everyone, both staff and players,” he maintains, “as we are all having to go about things in a different way now.
“Our College Academy has become much more important in providing game time to more players.  It is even likely that we may run two teams, this coming year.  The players all have an overwhelming desire to play for their home town club, and so being able to do so at U16s level provides them with something to aim towards, just as I had when I was a youngster.
“Hopefully, the Academy will resume sometime in the future, and for that reason alone it is important to retain the U16s in order to provide players to feed into it, should that happen.”
As a Category 2 side, our season will comprise of a total of seven matches, provisional details of which are provided at the foot of this page.
“Category 1 Academy U16s sides play only eight matches, but they have the opportunity of spanning these out over a much longer period.  This gives them longer to observe the players in a playing environment, whereas we have only the few weeks up to the beginning of March,” he explains.
Unfortunately, this means that the players are with us during the worst playing conditions of the year, and it may be remembered that last season two of the six fixtures were lost by the weather rendering our home pitch unplayable.
“In the light of last year, I have been exploring the possibility of having a 4G pitch available to us as backup, because to lose a third of fixtures, last year, was most frustrating,” he recalls.
A total of twenty players has been signed up to form this year’s squad, the bulk of them being aged fifteen, alongside a group of half a dozen really able lads, who are twelve months younger.  Danny tells me that his main aim for the season will be to see week on week improvements to both team, and individuals, alongside an increase in standards and expectations at training sessions.
This was evidenced, last season, by their winning of all four fixtures they played, which included a home victory over Category 1 side, Castleford, in the last outing of the season.
“We have an even tougher challenge this year with fixtures against the City of Hull, and Widnes,” he enthuses.  “They will provide high class opposition, towards which we can build up to playing against, by the end of the season.”

Sat 28th Jan Cumbria Home 2pm
Sun 5th Feb Newcastle Thunder Away 2pm
Sat 11th Feb Cumbria Away 2pm
Sat 18th Feb City of Hull Home 3pm
Sat 25th Feb London Broncos Home 2pm
4th March Widnes Away 2pm