Plymouth Argyle duo River Allen and Aaron Bentley have agreed deals to start next season as first-year professionals much to the delight of Academy manager Kevin Hodges, who has overseen their progress for the last two years while the players completed their apprenticeship.
Both will join left-back Ben Purrington (pictured), formerly a youth-team colleague, in Argyle’s senior squad and Hodges insists that they have warranted the one-year contracts offered to them by manager John Sheridan.
Speaking to the Plymouth Herald, Hodges said: “River is one of those that has come through the system from a very young age. Whilst he has been with us as an apprentice he has really developed. He has been very influential on and off the pitch.
“He trains to his maximum every single day and if you aspire to be a professional footballer you have to have that sort of mentality.
“Yes, he has still got a lot to learn but, personally, I think he has justified being offered a professional contract.
“Obviously, the manager has seen positives and given him that opportunity, which we are all very pleased with.
“River has done very well to get this far. Now he has to establish himself as a professional footballer and try to force his way into the first team reckoning, which we all know is not a very easy task. I believe has got the potential to do that,” added Hodges.
Defender, Bentley has overcome a niggling injury problem on his way to securing a deal at Argyle.
Hodges said: “Aaron came in slightly later on than River and, to be fair, he had a turbulent first season. He had an injury which, more or less, ruled him out for most of the first year of his apprenticeship, but, in adversity, he came through it.
“Football throws up numerous challenges, and the mental side of things play an important part of the game. Aaron has come through a lot of testing times, and kicked on this season.
“He’s a good header of the ball, and you need that obviously if you are a centre-back, and he’s quite tidy in possession of the ball – both right and left footed.
“He’s mobile and can be a threat from set plays. He’s a big lad and needs to impose himself on people a little bit more.”
With Purrington, a contender for the League Two Apprentice of the Year Award earlier this year also coming from Argyle’s Class of 14, Hodges has been delighted by this season’s cohort of second years.
He added: “From that year group, we have got three through from our seven apprentices, and that in itself is very pleasing.”