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LFE Apprentice of the Season Winners Announced

LFE Apprentice of the Season Winners Announced

The winners of the three LFE Apprentice of the Season awards were revealed on Sunday evening at a star-studded EFL Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

The winners were as follows…

LFE Championship Apprentice of the Season – Ash Phillips (Blackburn Rovers)

For Blackburn Rovers’ Ash Phillips, the 2022/23 campaign has proved to be a huge success, with the Riversiders defender excelling both on and off the pitch. The 17-year-old made his professional bow for Jon Dahl Tomasson’s side in a 4-0 Carabao Cup triumph over Hartlepool United at Ewood Park back in August, followed shortly by his Championship debut four days later, playing 71 minutes in a 2-1 victory versus West Bromwich Albion.

The England U19 international has since gone on to make a further 12 appearances for the Lancashire club this season and has looked right at home on every occasion. He also put pen-to-paper on a three-year professional contract in September.

However, his progress away from the field of play is just as impressive, with the towering 6’4 central defender well on course to achieve D*D*D* in his BTEC programme. Blackburn’s Head of Education, Neil Chadwick, said: “The fact that Ash is also thinking about his education beyond his scholarship is testament to his attitude towards his personal development and lifelong learning.” He was also selected in the latest edition of The 11.

After winning the award, Phillips told LFE: “I’m over the moon, it’s a great moment for the family and I’m very proud to have won this trophy.

He also detailed how he balances his on and off the pitch commitments… “It’s all about planning really, making sure you’re one step ahead. Planning around training, making sure you get the work done because the work is just as important as the football. You also want to be performing on and off the pitch, so ultimately it’s about creating a good plan and making sure you stick to it.

“Character of mind is I want to be the best of the best, not only on the pitch but I want to top all the marks education wise.”

The runners-up were Jamie Knight-Lebel (Bristol City) and Emre Tezgel (Stoke City).

LFE League One Apprentice of the Season – Zach Mitchell (Charlton Athletic)

Charlton Athletic possess a rich history of producing homegrown talent through their academy system and integrating them into the first team set-up – the talented Zach Mitchell is one of the latest.

The 18-year-old penned his first professional deal with the Addicks last July and has since enjoyed an extremely positive campaign. Mitchell made his maiden first team appearance versus Brighton & Hove Albion U21s back in November, starting the match and playing 65 minutes of the Papa Johns Trophy clash. He then made his second appearance and FA Cup debut just four days later during a 4-1 win against Coalville Town at The Valley. The defender has since turned out for the senior side on six more occasions.

Off the pitch, Mitchell is also excelling. Alongside his BTEC programme, he is also undertaking an A-Level.

Mitchell told LFE: “I’m delighted. Firstly, congratulations to the other nominees, very well deserved, they’re great players, but yes, delighted more than anything. I’m also extremely grateful to everyone who has supported me on my journey so far… family, players, staff… I’m excited for the future.”

Touching on his additional educational responsibilities, he added: “I do it because I enjoy it. I don’t necessarily see it as a burden or anything like that, I almost look forward to it because it can take your mind off football which at times can be a positive, allowing you to step back and refocus.”

The runners-up were Fabio Jalo (Barnsley) and Gatlin O’Donkor (Oxford United).

LFE League Two Apprentice of the Season – Josh Tomlinson (Northampton Town)

At just 17 years of age, Josh Tomlinson has already steeped his name in Northampton Town’s history books. At the back end of the 2021/22 season, he became the club’s youngest ever appearance maker at just 15 years and 336 days, breaking the record previously set by Ivan Toney. Then, in October, he scored versus Arsenal U21s in a Papa Johns Trophy tie – a goal that saw the young defender become the Cobblers’ youngest ever goal scorer. Josh signed his first professional contract in December.

The Kettering born youth product has since gained valuable experience of senior football with two short loan spells at Harborough Town and Barwell respectively.

Away from the cut and thrust of the football pitch, Josh is a high performing learner who’s maturity on the pitch transfers into the classroom. He is on track to achieve his targeted grades and always makes the effort to successfully catch up on any work missed due to his commitments with the first team.

Josh said after picking up his award: “It’s hard to put into words to be fair. I can’t say I expected it, but I’m absolutely buzzing to receive this award.”

The runners-up were Matus Holicek (Crewe Alexandra) and Emmanuel Ilesanmi (Harrogate Town).

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