ROBBIE Cowling insists the long-term progression of Colchester United’s young players is more important than any academy results.

The U’s have fielded younger under-23 and under-18 sides in Professional Development League Two this season, with more of their players going out on loan to non-league clubs.

The likes of Decarrey Sheriff, Eoin McKeown and Sam Warde have all spent time away from the JobServe Community Stadium this season, with under-23 boss Kevin Horlock having more youthful players at his disposal as a result.

As a result, Colchester’s youth teams have come up against more experienced players and have struggled to get wins on the board with both teams sitting bottom of their respective tables, as the campaign draws to a conclusion.

Nevertheless, U’s chairman Cowling says the valuable experience the club’s youngsters are gaining in men’s football outweighs academy results, on the pitch.

Speaking at the club’s recent fans forum, Cowling said: “The change was driven very much by myself, in discussions with the academy.

“What we decided as a club is that under-23s football can be a bit too tippy tappy.

“It doesn’t really prepare the players to be ready to play for John (McGreal).

“Our under-23 team now is mostly under-18s, under-19s and we’ve had a couple of under-15 and under-16 players in there, this year.

“So yes they’re losing games but they’re getting some good experience.

“Once they’re over 19, they should be going out playing men’s football at the likes of Maldon, Dulwich Hamlet or Braintree and wherever else we have players out on loan, where they’re getting much better experience to prepare them to come back and play for John.

“That’s our philosophy of the club at the moment – we see men’s football above under-23s football and that bigger progression.

“Some boys will go straight from under-18s to the under-23s to the first team.

“But generally they need to go out and get that experience.

“We’re often pitting our under-18s against under-23s and yes, they’re getting beaten but I don’t actually care if they lose an under-23 game and then become a professional footballer.

“That’s the philosophy of the club and I’ve been quite a driver in making that happen.

“Of course we want to balance it and we don’t want to demoralise them completely.

“But when they go back and play in their own age groups, they’re winning their games.

“It’s just the way that we’re trying to drive the club forward at the moment.

“I think it’s going to work for us and I think we’ll see some good young talent coming through, because we depend on it.”

Cowling also feels Wayne Brown and Kevin Horlock are benefitting from the way in which Colchester’s academy coaching set-up.

The pair switched roles last summer, with Brown taking charge of Bostik League division north side and U’s affiliated Maldon and Tiptree and Horlock replacing him as Colchester’s under-23 manager.

“It’s brilliant for Wayne and Kevin’s development because we’re not just trying to produce footballers at this club, we’re trying to produce first-team coaches and their assistants,” added Cowling.

“Being out there on that touchline and getting that experience like Wayne is doing at Maldon and Tiptree is brilliant for him and it’s good for the boys who go there.”

Colchester’s under-16s are in action at the JobServe Community Stadium tonight.

The U’s host Reading in a showcase game, kick-off 7pm.