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Apprentice of the Year – The Winners

LFE casts a closer eye over players that scooped The Championship, League One and League Two Apprentice of the Year prizes at last night’s Football League Awards:

Mason Bennett (Derby County)

While he recently left Pride Park (temporarily) to bolster Chesterfield’s League Two promotion push, Bennett claimed the Championship crown after fending off competition from Huddersfield Town’s Jake Charles and Middlesbrough’s Bryn Morris.

The youngster knows a thing or two about being in the spotlight after making his Derby debut under the glare of Championship floodlights as a 15-year-old back in 2011 during a 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough.

That appearance made him the youngest player ever in the club’s history and unsurprisingly the young forward also has the distinction of being the club’s youngest goal-scorer after scoring against Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup Third Round last term at the age of 16 years and 174 days old.

An England youth international, Bennett has now made over 30 appearances for the Rams and was described as an “excellent ambassador” for the club in his nomination with LFE’ regional officer John Barton adding:“Over the years of dealing with a large number of apprentices I have not known an apprentice with such football commitments who has tried so hard to complete his education programme.

“This considerable effort is no doubt due to Mason attaching a huge value to achieving the academic aspects of his programme.”

Brendan Galloway (MK Dons)

England youth international Brendan Galloway became the youngest first-team player in Milton Keynes Dons’ short but eventful history as a 15-year-old in 2011 during a 6–0 victory over Nantwich Town in the FA Cup.

The young defender who has also earned international recognition with England’s Under-16 and Under-18 teams is known for his composure on the ball and his ability to turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye.

He made his league debut after starting for MK Dons in a 2–1 victory at Rochdale on 28 April 2012 and has now made 11 appearances for the club, 7 of which have come this term.

“This season has been great in the first-team, especially scoring in the FA Cup,” said Galloway.

“I’m still trying to complete my college course, give back to the community while playing but my ultimate aim is to play in the Premier League. I have to thank the manager [Karl Robinson} for giving me the chance.”

LFE’s regional officer Darren Bloodworth added his tribute to the 18-year-old saying:

“Brendan’s a well-mannered and polite member of the group. His attitude to work is always good and he has always redoubled his efforts to catch-up with his academic work after he’s been on first-team or international duty.”

Brad Walker (Hartlepool United)

Midfield hotshot Brad Walker saw off Plymouth Argyle’s Ben Purrington and Portsmouth’s Jack Whatmough to take the League Two award.

Walker who scored a screamer (shown below) just 24 hours earlier in Pool’s 4-0 rout of Bristol Rovers has earned rave reviews since breaking into Colin Cooper’s first-team last August.

He follows in the footsteps of team-mate and midfield partner in crime Luke James who took the League One Apprentice of the Year award a year ago.

“It’s brilliant. It was very good to be nominated and I didn’t think I would win it but I have and I’m very happy,” said Walker

“It’s going well. I’d like to thank the gaffer and the club for giving me the opportunity to play. My family is the main thing for me, they have been very important and are very supportive.”

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