Fourteen former apprentices have been handed the opportunity to earn a route back into professional football after being recruited for a League Football Education (LFE) representative team that will play against Jamie Vardy’s V9 Academy.
The players – aged from 18 to 22 – will showcase their talent at Manchester City’s Etihad Training Ground on Tuesday 5th June under the watchful eye of over 100 scouts in attendance from clubs around the world.
An initial group of 20 took part in a selection game against a National Football Youth League Under-19s All-Star side at Sheffield United’s SteelPhalt Academy on Thursday, with the standout performers securing their place in the final 14-man squad.
The ex-apprentices set to represent LFE are as follows:
Oliver Martin (22) – Martin was part of Manchester City’s academy before completing his two-year apprenticeship at Fleetwood Town, captaining the Under-18s in his second year. Martin then spent a year at Stalybridge Celtic before testing himself in Sweden at Ange IF via LFE’s Erasmus+ programme. Since then, the 22-year-old keeper has appeared for New Mills AFC and Mossley FC alongside his job of Digital Communications Assistant at The PFA.
Lewis Brass (21) – Former Carlisle United apprentice Brass has spent time at several clubs since completing his apprenticeship, signing for Gateshead, Chesterfield and Cardiff City before jetting off to America to combine Division 1 soccer with studying for a Global Marketing Management degree at East Central College. He made a big impression from the off, becoming a freshman captain and was named a 2nd Team All-Region.
James Baillie (22) – Full-back Baillie is a graduate of Crewe Alexandra’s renowned academy and made 18 senior appearances during his time at the club. The 22-year-old currently plies his trade in the National League North with Curzon Ashton, where he has established himself as a regular in the starting line-up, amassing over 50 outings since his arrival in September 2016.
Isaac Assenso (21) – Towering defender Assenso was a firm favourite of Leeds United’s former Academy manager Neil Redfearn, but following his exit from the club, Assenso was released at the end of his apprenticeship. Following a short spell at Scunthorpe United, the classy centre-half has enjoyed two successful stints at Ossett Town, as well as an injury-stricken period with Hartlepool United.
Aidan Hutchinson (18) – Left-footed centre-back Hutchinson was an unused substitute for Carlisle United’s Sky Bet League Two fixture with Notts County in October, with manager Keith Curle describing him as “a character I like” and “a natural defender”. The 18-year-old was a head apprentice, meaning he was a go-to player for Curle to pass on messages to the youth team, but despite a promising apprenticeship, Hutchinson was not offered professional terms.
George McCartney (19) – McCartney was an important figure in Notts County’s Under-18s team throughout his apprenticeship and gained a taste of senior football during a loan spell at Harrowby Town. However, the left-sided defender did not receive a professional offer and spent the past year at Aslockton & Orston, picking up plenty of experience in the Central Midlands League.
Connor Smythe (22) – Left-back Smythe came through Scunthorpe United’s academy system and was skipper of the Under-18s before being informed of his release. After spells with Boston United and Worksop Town while completing a PGCE Secondary PE course, Smythe settled with AFC Mansfield for the 2017-18 campaign, making a significant contribution to the club’s promotion to the Northern Premier League Division One East.
Bradley Maslen-Jones (20) – Versatile defensive-midfielder Maslen-Jones showed great resilience to recover from injury to make Peterborough United’s first-team bench in the first year of his apprenticeship. The 20-year-old overcame another setback to earn a one-year professional deal at Hull City before moving on to Rushall Olympic for 2017-18 season, winning the Walsall Senior Cup.
Tristan Thompson-Matthews (18) – Thompson-Matthews is the youngest member of the side, only turning 18 on 1st June. The diminutive midfielder impressed in Burton Albion’s academy side with his passing range and willingness to get stuck in, but missed out on a professional deal following the club’s relegation to Sky Bet League One.
Eli Bako (22) – Former Coventry City apprentice Bako has racked up plenty of experience in men’s football since being released by the Sky Blues in 2014 having turned out for Ilkeston, Redditch and current club Tamworth. The attacking midfielder was an instant star for Tamworth’s Under-21 outfit, netting a hat-trick in the Midland Football League play-off final just over 12 months ago and has made steady progress ever since.
Callum Powell (22) – Pacey winger Powell was involved in first-team training at Northampton Town throughout his two-year apprenticeship before a change of management scuppered his hopes of a professional deal. Since then, he spent 12 months in Vancouver combining football with academic studies before returning to the UK. Powell featured heavily for Rugby Town, earned a move to National League club Wrexham and then played for Tamworth during the 2017-18 season.
Matthew Campbell (19) – Campbell was on the books of West Ham United as a schoolboy before joining Millwall, where he completed his apprenticeship before being deemed surplus to requirements. The tricky winger signed for National League South outfit Farnborough in January and made an instant impact, establishing himself as a regular to get 20 appearances under his belt in men’s football.
Bradley Fewster (22) – Fewster was viewed as a hot prospect at Middlesbrough, representing England at Under-16 to Under-19 level and boasting a prolific scoring record while playing alongside the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Dele Alli. The striker played twice for Boro and became a fan favourite at York City during a 24-game loan spell, scoring eight times and winning the League Two Player of the Month award in February 2016. Fewster spent the 2017-18 season at Spennymoor Town in the National League North after leaving the Riverside last summer.
Joe Cairns (18) – Eighteen-year-old Cairns has recently been informed of his release by Walsall having just completed his apprenticeship. The teenage striker produced a healthy return in front of goal for the Saddlers youth team and progressed into the reserves. Cairns also appeared in the matchday squad in the Checkatrade Trophy against Coventry City in October, although he was not introduced off the bench.