LFE takes a closer look at ‘The 11’ in December 2022 and why they have been included:
Nathaniel Wallace (Scunthorpe United)
Described as a “model apprentice”, Nathaniel Wallace has been making strides both on and off the pitch since joining Scunthorpe’s apprenticeship programme in 2021. The winger made his home debut versus Gateshead in October, playing 75 minutes in a 3-1 win for the Iron. He also regularly trains with the first team.
Academically, Nathaniel is also making excellent progress. His BTEC Lead Tutor, Jessica Sharp said: “Nat has made excellent progress on his BTEC Diploma and is on course to achieve a DD overall grade, which is way beyond his original target. He applies himself very well in lessons and works hard to achieve the higher-grade criteria. He has shown great confidence this year and hugely improved his presentation skills. This is evident in his recent assessments, where he has applied himself to achieve the distinction grades. Every session is seen as an opportunity to develop himself further and improve.”
Taylor Anderson (Mansfield Town)
Taylor Anderson’s story is an inspiring one. Over the last year, the right-back has overcome several battles away from the field of play. He suffered two serious injuries and these kept Taylor away from the game for long periods of time and contributed to a struggle with mental health, which also prolonged his recovery.
Since his personal and physical battles, Taylor has fought tooth and nail to get himself back to full fitness and has overcome his struggles in an admirable fashion.
Alongside his footballing progress, Taylor has enjoyed a lot of academic success too. Despite his time away from the game, he is well on course to complete his BTEC and SEP studies and has shown a keenness to achieve higher than his expected grades. Taylor also missed a large chunk of his Level 2 coaching qualification but has made the effort to complete this in his own time which is a testament to his character.
Finlay Cross-Adair (Preston North End)
Finley Cross-Adair has been ever present since starting his apprenticeship at Preston North End, both on and off the pitch. The striker played a vital role as a first-year scholar for the U19s last season as Nick Harrison’s side secured a league and cup double. This season, the 17-year-old has made his senior debut, coming on as a substitute vs Stoke City at Deepdale in October. He’s since featured for Ryan Lowe’s side on numerous occasions.
Academically, he has been described as “enthusiastic” and has completed 100% of his mandatory and overall SEP tasks. Despite missing some lessons due to first team commitments, Finlay has always caught up on his work and is on course to meet his target BTEC grade.
Ashley Phillips (Blackburn Rovers)
Blackburn Rovers defender Ashley Phillips has enjoyed a breakthrough season at the Riversiders this term and has excelled in his performances. The 17-year-old is now a regular within the first team setup at Ewood Park and has made eight appearances already this season. He’s also represented England with the U19s.
Despite his on the pitch commitments and successes, Phillips hasn’t taken his eye off the ball in the classroom, maintaining his standards to the highest level with his education programme by keeping on track to achieve D*D*D* in his BTEC. Blackburn’s Head of Education Neil Chadwick said: “The fact that Ash is also thinking about his education beyond scholarship is testament to his attitude towards his personal development and lifelong learning.”
Lorent Talla (Queens Park Rangers)
For Lorent Talla, the past year has saw him show tremendous strength to come back from adversity. The 17-year-old spent the whole of the 2021/22 season on the side-lines through injury but has come back fighting and more determined than ever. This season, Talla has featured in every single U18s game, as well as playing three times for the U21s.
Off the pitch, Talla is also excelling. He’s on track with his BTEC programme and consistently meets assignment deadlines to the best of his ability. QPR’s LFE Regional Officer, Simon Dwight said: “He shows signs of leadership, being a vocal apprentice to drive and encourage the rest of the group. He is showing positive signs of developing his own ‘winning formula’.”
Gatlin O’Donkor (Oxford United)
Gatlin O’Donkor has been an outstanding performer both on and off the pitch this year and has cemented himself as a regular fixture in Karl Robinson’s Oxford United squad, making ten appearances in League One, scoring one and assisting one.
Gatlin’s performances on the pitch have been reflective of his work in the classroom. His tutor, Matt Jarvis said: “Gatlin left School with 3x GCSE’s and has successfully passed his Maths Functional Skills in his 1st Year to concentrate on getting an Extended Certificate that will require him to balance his studies with 1st Team commitments. Gatlin has transformed his attitude since School and is well on course to complete an Extended Certificate to a Pass level and complete his SEP in the New Year.”
Hamish Douglas (Rotherham United)
Hamish Douglas has been at Rotherham United since he was 11 years old and has excelled in every age group since. The 17-year-old, who is captain of the youth team, has impressed higher ups at the New York Stadium on a regular basis and was on the bench in Rotherham’s 1-0 win over bitter rivals Sheffield United recently.
Academically, Hamish is continuing to progress and is on course to meet his target BTEC grade. James Mahoney added: “The standard of Hamish’s work is very good and his detail and description within his writing is of a good standard. In lesson Hamish’s behaviour, attitude, application, and work-rate are all very good as he is ready to start every lesson and is always on task when he needs to be.”
Dan Murray (Portsmouth)
Since relocating from London to Hampshire to sign for Portsmouth, Dan Murray has excelled both in footballing terms, and academical. Described as a “mature learner”, Daniel is said to possess excellent self-awareness and has shown that he can make professional decisions to aid his development on and off the pitch. The midfielder has been part of the senior squad on two occasions this season and regularly joins in with first team training sessions.
In the classroom, Dan is keen on receiving feedback in order to improve his work, with his passion for his BTEC and SEP courses said to be very evident.
Brandon Njoku (Cambridge United)
Despite struggling with injuries, Brandon Njoku has had the opportunity to spend some time in and around the first team. However, it’s his attitude off the pitch which has caught the attention of his mentors and peers. The forward is said to have displayed a great attitude towards his studies and lifestyle, dedicated to living his life as a model professional.
Brandon’s tutor said: “Brandon has worked exceptionally hard this Half Term during his BTEC lessons, and on his assignments. Brandon has gone above and beyond to ensure the work he has produced is of excellent quality.”
Will Johnson (Fleetwood Town)
According to his mentors, Will Johnson is a leading example both on and off the pitch. Johnson, who is captain of Fleetwood Town’s U18s, was top scorer for large parts of last season and has maintained his high standards this season too, scoring the winning goal in the Cod Army’s FA Youth Cup fixture at Stockport County recently, despite playing centre-back. Due to his impressive displays, Will has been rewarded with his first professional contract.
Away from the pitch, Will maintains his standards when it comes to his academic studies as well, achieving distinctions in all of his BTEC units. He’s also studying a Maths A-Level in his own time. Fleetwood’s LFE Regional Officer, Craig Skinner said: “Will is always proactive in organising his time to ensure his assignments are handed in on time and that his work is completed to the highest of standards.”
Nico Valentine (Ipswich Town)
Second-year Ipswich Town apprentice Nico Valentine has made a real impression this term. Nico is working well on track towards his D*D*D* BTEC target grade, whilst managing his busy football schedule playing for the U18s, U21s and training with the first team. Having made his senior debut in October, Valentine signed a two-year professional contract.
First team Manager Kieran McKenna said: “Nico is a talented young player who has had some injury issues over the last few months, so I’m looking forward to seeing more of his development over the next months.”