LITTLE Oakley boss Matt Carmichael believes his club is blessed with "unbelievable young talent" - and expects to see more rising stars breaking into the first team.

The Acorns have a successful youth set-up and have always put a heavy emphasis on giving players a pathway into senior football.

That aim has never been more apparent than now, having launched their own academy late last year.

Carmichael believes it bodes well and says he will do everything in his power to help youngsters realise their potential.

“A year or two may be a bit soon but in two and a half to three years I expect to see a lot more youngsters coming through (into the first team)," he said.

“There’s some unbelievable talent here and we’ve just got to keep working with them, to make sure they continue to flourish and realise their potential.

“There’s plenty to look forward to in the new year.

“We’ve got our academy and both on and off the pitch, things are undoubtedly moving in the right direction.

“We’re blessed with some excellent coaches, from the youth set-up upwards, and hopefully in two or three years we’ll be in a position to try and get promotion.

“That has to be the aim because there’s no point doing everything we’re doing and not being ambitious.

“(Chairman) Michael Good is steering the ship and, as a club, we’re well directed and organised, from the top down.

“We’ve got the right heads pushing in the right direction."

Oakley are eighth in the Thurlow Nunn League first division south table after last weekend's 3-0 victory at Lopes Tavares.

Next up is a Tendring derby against Brightlingsea Regent Reserves at the Memorial Ground on Saturday.

“There’s a really good buzz around the club," said Carmichael.

“Everyone has been buying into what we’re trying to do, getting to know their roles and responsibilities.

“It was always going to take a while and we’ve only been here a couple of months, but we’re certainly getting there and making progress.

“Everyone was already technically good but it was a case of changing people’s mindset, getting them to defend from the front a bit more.

“As a club, we’re learning. Everyone involved is learning and that’s only natural because everything's changed in the last few weeks.

“There’s been a real shift in culture but we’re making great strides and certainly heading in the right direction.”

Carmichael recently confirmed that Josh Merritt has committed his long-term future to Oakley.

He has also signed Wayne Blackman and believes competition for places is fierce, especially with Joss Neale back and available, having been absent over Christmas.

“Josh isn’t quite up to speed yet but when he is he’s going to be one of the best players in the league, in my opinion," added Carmichael.

“He’s a fantastic footballer who gets around the pitch.

“He passes the ball, tackles and is clever. He’s certainly one we’ve got a lot of hope for.

“Overall, competition is healthy and the squad’s getting close to where I want it to be."