LFE takes a closer look at the players to make ‘The 11’ in February 2019 and why they’ve been included:
Dwight has had an excellent apprenticeship, completing his ASE framework ahead of schedule, making his first-team debut and being offered a professional contract.
The right-back has reportedly attracted plenty of suitors from the Sky Bet Championship and Scottish Premiership since becoming Barnet’s youngest ever player as a 15-year-old in 2016, while he has been a “revelation” in the classroom according to his LFE Regional Officer Gavin Willacy.
Willacy said: “Since coming onto the programme with only two GCSE passes after a difficult time at school, Dwight has progressed from the BTEC Subsidiary Diploma to achieve Merit Merit at the full Diploma – a fantastic effort.
“He was the first apprentice at the club to complete his NVQ course and is expected to pass English this month. He has impressed all the staff with his maturity and determination to make the best of his opportunities.”
Midfielder Luca has made significant progress this season, starting the campaign by winning LFE’s Goal of the Month in August before forcing his way into the first-team at the turn of the year.
Having appeared as a late substitute in the FA Cup against Walsall, the Republic of Ireland Under-18 international then earned his first start, taking just six minutes to record an assist at Bristol City, while he has since featured three times in the Sky Bet Championship.
“Since meeting Luca at his school visit, you could tell he had all the behaviours, characteristics and attitude to succeed,” Bolton’s Head of Education Lee Wood told LFE. “It goes without saying that from a football point of view, Luca is currently riding the crest of a wave.
“In addition, he has recently took part in a matchday signing event for the club’s fans, engaging with the local community and being a role model for our young following. Despite dealing with the fixtures, training and extra responsibilities that come with being a member of the first-team, he is more than meeting the academic expectations, which all bodes well for the future and we at the club look forward to supporting his future development.”
Ethan has been an impressive performer on and off the pitch. He entered the apprenticeship as a standout student having achieved four A* and two A grades in his GCSEs and has continued to set high standards.
The 17-year-old is a key member of the Under-18 team, while he also took part in a Q&A event alongside graduates Ben Fox and Reece Hutchinson during a ‘One of Our Own’ night held by the Brewers to celebrate the work of the club’s academy.
Regional Officer Ian King said: “Ethan has been playing consistently well at Burton Albion since the start of 2019. He has created a number of goals through set piece delivery as well as scoring recently against Chesterfield.
“He is excelling in his education, with predicted grades of D*D*D*, and has also completed an A Level at home in his own time. He has a great attitude and displays superb application to the programme.”
Second-year forward Ben is a high achiever in all facets of the apprenticeship and was rewarded with a three-year professional contract on his 17th birthday having already featured in the Checkatrade Trophy for the U’s.
“Ben has really stepped up in big matches recently, including the quarter-final of the EFL Youth Alliance Cup and scoring in both FA Youth Cup games,” said Regional Officer Darren Bloodworth. “While out on loan, he’s had to deal with not getting much of the ball and a different style of football.
“Ben’s attitude has been excellent since earning his professional contract. Typified by the fact that when he was rested for a recent Youth Alliance game, he ran the tea bar at the training ground – no moans or groans.
Cambridge Head of Education Vanessa Walker told LFE: “Ben is doing really well and is on task with his work. He gained 11 distinctions in his first year and in spite of gaining a professional contract, he has continued to get Distinctions in his three units so far this year. He shows good research skills and works well independently, while also taking the time to help his peers to get started on units that he has already started.
“Ben made a fantastic start to his NVQ work this year and has now completed all units ahead of schedule. He understands the topics we have covered really well and can convey this in his written work. All of these attributes he has worked on are transferable skills to his football and I hope the knowledge he has gained from NVQ helps him in his professional career.”
First-year apprentice Mattie has enjoyed a rapid rise at Grimsby, making his first-team debut in Sky Bet League Two at the end of December as a second-half substitute as the 10-man Mariners held on for a 2-1 victory over Exeter City before signing his first professional deal two months later.
“Mattie has shown an outstanding attitude all season, with extra training sessions and a positive attitude to all aspects of his programme,” Academy Manager Neil Woods told LFE. “He has just about completed his NVQ and is progressing very well through his BTEC.”
Oliver Cowling, Education & Player Welfare Manager, added: “Since starting his apprenticeship, Mattie has set himself high standards both in and out of the classroom.
“He continually asks questions around ways to reach targets earlier and in the most effective manner. His sole focus is on achieving his goals and fulfilling all expectations given to him, whether that be either BTEC or NVQ. It is this focus that has enabled Mattie to make his debut appearance and train regularly with the first team.”
Connor hit the headlines prior to starting his apprenticeship when he became Luton’s youngest ever player at the age of 15 years 199 days after appearing in the dying moments of a Checkatrade Trophy win against Gillingham.
He had to wait two years for his next outing – in the same competition – but has made great progress in the youth team and plays regularly for the reserves in the Central League, while he has also experienced a spell on loan at Hemel Hempstead Town.
Regional Officer Gavin Willacy said: “Connor has made a terrific impact on the pitch, leading to involvement with the first-team, but it is in the classroom where I have been most impressed with him.
“He has finished his framework, passed functional skills and completed his NVQ. In addition, he has gone from studying a subsidiary diploma to a full diploma having changed his attitude totally from disengaged negativity to being positive and professional. An outstanding turnaround.”
LFE November Goal of the Month winner Owen wasted little time in securing a professional contract during his first year, penning a deal with his hometown club in October 2017.
Since then, the 18-year-old striker made his debut in Sky Bet League One against Blackburn Rovers last May, has featured on the bench in numerous games this season and helped Oxford on a fantastic FA Youth Cup run, where they beat Burnley before a fourth round exit to AFC Bournemouth.
And despite his playing success, Owen has remained focus on his education, completing his ASE framework ahead of schedule.
“Owen is an extremely polite and friendly young man, who is a credit to the club,” said Regional Officer Gavin Willacy. “He is expected to achieve a double Distinction in the BTEC Diploma and has completed his NVQ and FA Coaching award, while he has been a regular starter and scorer for the Under-23s in the Premier League Cup and moved into first-team contention in recent weeks.”
Jack had a tough time in the first year of his apprenticeship, which saw him go out on an early work experience loan to his home town. Following that move, he returned reinvigorated and focused, showing an excellent attitude on and off the pitch.
Academy Manager Nick Sheppard told LFE: “Jack struggled in school, but since coming onto the programme and with the help of the Head of Education, he is managing his dyslexia and not letting it hold him back in the classroom.
“He makes excellent progress in each lesson and is on course to finish his education in a timely manner and to a very good standard. Jack has recognised his shortcomings before starting the apprenticeship and is keen to help others who may be experiencing the same things.
“He has offered to volunteer in his own time by mentoring youngsters at a local secondary school who are disengaged with their education. Jack is always keen to do more and help people, including his team-mates on a day-to-day basis.
“Playing-wise, Jack has grown into a very mature performer and is working incredibly hard day in day out to take the next step and as an academy, we are extremely proud of the progress Jack is making both on and off the pitch.”
Midfielder Jack was a key contributor in Preston’s run to the last 16 of the FA Youth Cup, scoring on his first ever appearance at Deepdale in the third round against Charlton Athletic.
The second-year apprentice signed his first professional contract in the summer and came close to registering his first-team bow when he was included in the matchday squads against Birmingham City, Aston Villa and Rotherham United.
“Jack shows a mature attitude in the club and applies himself admirably as a player and academically,” Regional Officer Sarah Kayley said. “He has developed his confidence and improved his communication skills since starting the programme.
“Due to his first-team training commitments, Jack has completed his NVQ in his own time and has worked very hard to remain on track with his Extended Diploma.”
Angelo has endured a tough start to his apprenticeship having been unable to play so far this season, but the Belize international has maintained a positive mindset and used his time on the sidelines wisely, focusing heavily on his education.
“Angelo’s attitude around the academy is first class. He is a reliable, responsible apprentice who can be trusted to complete all of his work,” Blades Head of Education Mark Wilgose told LFE.
“He only has three NVQ units left to complete and has successfully completed his Level 2 FA Coaching Certificate. As a result of his dedication and commitment, he has been invited and accepted moving up onto the BTEC Extended Diploma course.”
Meanwhile, Academy Manager Travis Binnion said: “Angelo’s attitude through a really tough time has been exemplary. He was rewarded with a call-up to his native Belize, which was a fantastic experience for a 16-year-old and one that has given him a taste for international football and extra motivation to work hard at his game.”
Wigan Athletic’s Under-18 team remain unbeaten in the EFL Youth Alliance North West division since January 2018, with striker Charlie’s prolific record in front of goal being a key reason for their incredible success.
The 18-year-old has racked up 28 goals and 6 assists for the Latics’ Under-18s and Development Squad, while he remains committed to his education having completed his NVQ and looking on track to achieve the highest grade in his Extended Diploma.
Under-18s coach Peter Murphy told LFE: “Charlie has progressed at a rapid rate this season, which has resulted in him signing his first professional contract back in October. He works hard and is fully committed to all areas of his development. He is a model young professional and a positive example to all other players – his attitude is welcomed by the staff.
Head of Education & Welfare Mike Hurn added: “Charlie has made excellent progress in all areas of his education. As well as working hard on his NVQ and BTEC Extended Diploma, he has passed his Level 2 FA Coaching, where he showed a professional approach and a huge desire to learn and develop his own knowledge.
“His attitude to work and learning is top class and he is a pleasure to teach. Charlie recognises how the education programme can benefit him both on and off the pitch and he has used this to his advantage.”