CHRIS Allen believes young players were mentally tougher when he came through Oxford United’s system compared to today’s teenagers.

The techniques used to develop young footballers have been transformed by sports science in recent years.

It is almost unrecognisable to Allen, who as head of United’s youth team helped bring through Max Crocombe and Tyrone Marsh, who are in contention to be in the first-team squad at Fleetwood tomorrow.

He said: “When I played you just drank water and that was it. “Now you have something before, during and after games just to get the advantage.

“It’s so scientific now, we didn’t have strength and conditioning coaches, we just did a bit of weights if we wanted to and went home.

“Now you’ve got programmes and you can see it in the physiques of the players.”

But there is one aspect where Allen sees a weakness in players coming through – their mental strength.

It is not a specific criticism of the teenagers in United’s highly promising youth team, who are top of their league and reached the third round of the FA Youth Cup.

Instead it is a more general social issue, which means despite all the advantages of modern day players, Allen is confident the side he played in would win in a match against this season’s team.

He said: “We would beat them mentally.

“I don’t think the young players nowadays are mentally tough.

“I don’t know if it’s because they get so much handed to them now, they’re not prepared for the rigours.

“Whereas when I was their age we didn’t have a great deal and we had to go and fight and scrape for everything.

“We didn’t get any real information given to us on how we were doing, so you had to analyse yourself.

“You had guidance, but you had to find your own way.”

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The 17-year-old will travel with his brother Marvel, who was released by the U’s last season.