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Margate’s Salim Usman on under-23s’ title triumph, the development of Vinnie Bowman and Gabriel Duo and urging the new first-team boss to use club’s young players

Margate under-23s boss Salim Usman has urged the club’s prospective new manager to give his title-winning players more chances in the first-team squad.

Gate’s under-23s clinched the Southern Counties East Development East crown with a 3-0 victory at Bearsted last Thursday night.

Margate under-23s celebrating their title triumph at Bearsted last Thursday
Margate under-23s celebrating their title triumph at Bearsted last Thursday

The senior team are set to start the 2024/25 campaign in Isthmian South East after relegation and Usman conceded: “The gap is closer now that we have been relegated.

“Obviously, that’s not ideal for us as a club. But, hopefully, whoever takes over as first-team manager - and the board itself - think ‘Maybe we need to have a different approach and look at the young players and try to build more of a local club.’

“I think you can see from the response of the fans how much they’re hoping that the club has a more local approach, bringing in more local players.

“Our young players are good enough to step in. I feel it’s important to trust and give them those opportunities.

“I hope that they get opportunities.”

Margate under-23s beat Bearsted 3-0 to become Southern Counties East Development East champions
Margate under-23s beat Bearsted 3-0 to become Southern Counties East Development East champions

Charlie Meade, Reece Greig and Raju Ahmed all got on the scoresheet for Margate at Bearsted.

Usman said: “It’s been a pleasure, coaching them and seeing them develop over the course of the season.

“It was a nice way to finish the season last week.

“We have got them to understand simple principles - things like game management and understanding how to execute a plan of play. They have just been soaking it up.

“We have got a couple of them, who are looking at moving onto first teams, which is what it’s all about.”

Usman took charge of Gate’s under-23s in July 2022 after Paul Lamb stepped down due to his work commitments.

On putting together the successful crop for 2023/24, the manager said: “We had a young side the season before but we lost a couple of the boys to other clubs in the area. So, it was a bit of a quick fix.

“A lot of them are very raw - very young - I think we have got six or seven 17-year-olds in the squad. That’s really good because it shows how mature they were when they stepped into the first team.

“We have been lucky with the group of boys that we’ve had. We have been able to train twice a week, which has been key. Their local boys, so they’re able to train at the ground.

“They have really enjoyed working with us and they want to play for Margate.

“But, more importantly, they also want to develop themselves and move forward.”

Among those once part of the under-23s team was teenage forward Vinnie Bowman. He has since moved into the club’s first-team ranks and has had trials with professional clubs Millwall and West Ham while Gabriel Duo has also been given opportunities in Gate’s first team.

“Vinnie was quite fortunate that, early on in the season, he was able to move into the first team and has been training with them for the majority of the season,” said Usman. “He has had some interest from professional clubs, which is great.

“He was one of the players we sort of identified straight away.

“Gabriel Duo has been fantastic. He has just been a great player for us in the under-23s and, with the first team, he just showed a great attitude. He wants to learn. I hope he progresses and keeps on going.”

Work is already under way to find the next players like Bowman who can move out of the club’s youth team and - potentially via the under-23s - into the senior side.

Usman explained: “As a youth section, we’re always looking at how to improve what we have.

“We’re looking at our current under-18s and (trying to work out) who’s going to come into the under-23s for next year.

“But, also, we’re making sure that the current team we have, they have the opportunity to push on and get that first-team experience - whether that’s with Margate or other local clubs within the area.

“It’s really important to give them the next step.”

While Usman would like to taste more success with Margate, the most important thing for the development team is for them to be competitive and for the players to be able to continue their progress.

He said: “We want to be competitive. If you’re capable of doing that, you have always got a chance.

“But it’s more important to get them organised, being competitive and learning all the time, as well as setting good standards and the chance to see what it’s like to be in the first team.”

Margate are set to hold a first-team Open Trial day at Hartsdown Park on Saturday, June 22.

Email your footballing CV to the club’s secretary at secretary@margate-fc.com and players will then be selected and emailed back to be invited to the trial.

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