ACADEMY Director Dave Wright believes the Under-19s' recent four-day tour of Switzerland will prove to be of a massive benefit to both the players and staff.
The squad returned to the Potteries as Under-19 Altstatten International Tournament runners-up on Sunday after narrowly missing out on being crowned champions following a 4-2 penalty shootout defeat to Brazilian outfit Atletico Paranaense in the showpiece final.
Wright says although the squad missed out on reaching their main objective, the whole experience can only help the youngsters to develop into more rounded professionals.
"We didn't quite reach our overall aim of winning the tournament but we came very close," he revealed to stokecityfc.com.
"A penalty shootout is always a lottery but overall we were delighted with how the boys performed and represented the Club throughout the competition.
"Tournament football is very different to what the lads usually face so it is without doubt valuable to their development.
"It provides you with an intense period of time where you can get a lot of work done with the players as well as being beneficial for the staff to have a different emphasis.
"Atletico were probably the strongest team in the competition in all honesty and they were a real physical outfit which you wouldn't necessarily associate with Brazilian teams.
"Although we lost in the final, what was pleasing was after losing to Atletico in the group stage we learned from it and took it into the final, and gave a better account of ourselves which shows how well the boys applied themselves.
He added: "It was certainly a valuable learning curve for the squad in terms of how to recover quickly from one game to the next and mentally prepare for matches.
"We feel the experience will get them into good habits and we told the lads at end of the tournament to take what they have learned and adapt it to their game."
The former Portsmouth youth coach revealed he was impressed with the standard of opposition in Altstatten as well as paying tribute to the tournament organisers who looked after the squad's every need.
"The level of competition was fantastic," he said, "the European sides were strong, as too were the two South American teams, whilst I thought the local club FC Altstatten were of a good standard.
"To finish as the top European club with teams like Sporting Lisbon and Club Brugge involved was very satisfying because they are a lot more accustomed to tournaments than we are.
"We have already shown though in the two tournaments we have been involved in this season that we are ready for it and are on a platform to compete.
He added: "I have to also compliment the organisers of the tournament because of the way we were looked after.
"The organisation was second to none and it was one of the best experiences I've ever had with a squad of youngsters on tour - nothing was too much trouble."
Wright also lavished praise upon the squad for the way in which they conducted themselves during their stay in the Swiss town and how they positively spread the name of the Football Club.
"I think we gained some new Stoke City supporters whilst out there by not only the way we performed on the pitch, but the polite manner the players came across with the local people and youngsters who were keen to be around them," said Wright.
"There were a lot of comments about how friendly the players and staff were and we positively promoted the image of Stoke City which is important to us because we are a family orientated Club."
Following the recent overseas tours for the Under-19s as well as the Under-17s in Dallas, who were crowned Generation Adidas Cup champions in April, Wright added such tournaments are crucial to producing an accomplished player for the highest level.
"The Under-12s are off to Valencia this weekend and as I've said previously it is something which is new to us, but we feel is a must if we are to develop elite players for the very top at Premier League and international level," he added.
"It is important that they experience a competitive environment because it adds a massive value to them as young footballers.
"They come back better for the experience and the younger you can do it with the players, the more accustomed they become to it which will help them to develop quicker.
"If you take the Brazilians for example, who clearly do it year after year and the level their players are at, I don’t think we are a millions miles away from that and we have only just started competing abroad so it is very encouraging for the future."