League Football Education continues to provide past Apprentices with the opportunity to earn a route back into full-time football through the Erasmus+ Player Placement programme, which sends players out to Sweden for three months.
Over 200 ex-apprentices have tried their luck on foreign soil since the scheme began in 2008, with over 60 gaining professional deals at the end of their initial placement period.
Of the previous cohort sent abroad, seven out of 12 players received contract offers from their clubs. Former Stevenage apprentice Zak Guerfi’s impressive displays encouraged Bodens BK to offer him a two-year contract, while Ytterhogdals IK tied up deals for English trio Jake Croft (formerly Leeds United), Juma Omar (formerly MK Dons) and Sam Alderson (formerly Leyton Orient).
Elsewhere, ex-Norwich City apprentice Zach Birse earned an extended stay at IFK Ostersund and Luton Town academy graduate Jack Snelus sealed a new contract with Eskilstuna City, plus Allsvenskan side GIF Sundsvall expressed their desire to retain goalkeeper Scott Coughlan (formerly Cardiff City), although he chose to take up a scholarship in the USA instead.
Now, the latest crop of former academy footballers have touched down in Scandinavia to experience a new culture, enhance their personal development and ultimately strive to extend their playing career.
In total, 17 youngsters have been selected to head out to Sweden, with most set to feature in Division 2 – the country’s fourth tier – at Bodens BK, Eskilstuna City, Gottne IF, IFK Ostersund and Ytterhogdals IK, while three have signed for Division 3 outfit IFK Holmsund, as well as one in the top flight with GIF Sundsvall’s Under-21 squad.
LFE Life Skills Manager Simon Williams said: “The Player Placement programme asks questions of people which are beyond simply: ‘Can you play football?’ During the 12 weeks, players have a unique opportunity to develop their football with training and matches, as well as wider personal development through language lessons, coaching opportunities, cultural activities and community initiatives.
“It is those who have a willingness to try new things, are prepared to face unusual situations and have the motivation to find ways to seek comfort in new places, who will ultimately be successful on the programme. By success, this is personal to the individual and includes on and off-the-field achievements as one.”
The former Apprentices involved are as follows:
- Adam North (formerly Northampton Town)
- Jack Lee (formerly Dagenham & Redbridge)
- Jack Chandler (formerly Portsmouth)
- Tom Reilly (formerly Accrington Stanley)
- Sam Naylor (formerly Coventry City)
- Declan Slater (formerly Grimsby Town)
- Joe Cairns (formerly Walsall)
- Ben Chilcott (formerly Oxford United)
- Jake Thomas (formerly Port Vale)
- Zak Hill (formerly Port Vale)
- Josh Mortimore (formerly Bristol City)
- Leandro Ribeiro (formerly QPR)
- Oliver Harrison (formerly Crewe Alexandra)
- Romeo Akinola (formerly QPR)
- Alex McMillan (formerly Grimsby Town)
- Bailey Whalley (formerly Oldham Athletic)
- Matt Keogh (formerly Leeds United)