"We’re looking to step it up a gear now. We’ll be working hard on that in the next six weeks."
- Paul McGuinness

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16/09/2008 08:31, Report by Ben Hibbs
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Q&A: Paul McGuinness caught up with U18s boss Paul McGuinness to discover his thoughts on the Academy Under-18s’ fine start to the new season…

Two wins and a draw, seven goals scored and none conceded: you must be pleased with how things are going so far?
We’re very pleased. There’s a good spirit building up in the camp. We’ve been undefeated all the way through pre-season. The team is aware of that and we want to keep that going.

How are the new first-year lads coping with the transition to professional football?
The young lads are all doing well. There are two things you ask for: concentration and hard work. You take it that the players have ability. The level of ability determines how far you can go, but you won’t go anywhere without hard work and concentration. The players have been applying themselves very well in games and in training. So that’s been good.

And there have been some impressive performances from the more senior members of your squad…
What you find is that some of the players who struggled in their first year have the summer to reflect, they’ve grown up a bit and thought it over. Now all of a sudden they’re the older lads and they really start to show their ability. That’s happened with Chris Curran. He played his best ever game against Norwich. I was very pleased for him because he’s a very determined boy and he made a big jump in standard coming here from playing football in Northern Ireland. At times it was hard for him, but he’s stuck at it and he’s improving slowly. We hope that continues.

Which players have stood out?
Matty James and Olly Norwood have both done well. Matty played a lot of games at centre-back last season, but now he’s like a man released. We’re seeing his full potential coming out. He looks very strong and mature in his play. Olly is getting fitter and if he gets fitter still he’ll show the real ability he has got. He’s a very highly gifted, technical player. He will be working very hard over the next few months to get as fit as possible. Those two have stood out and they have also helped Davide Petrucci settle into the side.

After a

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