‘The 11’ have been selected from a cohort of 1250 other apprentice players across the land.
So here’s an in depth look at who they are and why they make our first ever 11.
Already adrift at the bottom of League Two and with well documented off field issues to contend with it’s been a tough start to 2013-14 for Accrington.
Yet the emergence of Connor Mahoney has helped to lift the gloom at the Shorefirst Stadium. The 16-year-old, who this time last year, was just weeks into his final school year and preparing for GCSE’s – has already made half a dozen appearances for James Beattie’s first-team.
And while results have been hard to come by, the young forward has certainly not let anyone down. Off the pitch Mahoney recently started at College and has already expressed a desire to upgrade his BTEC despite his involvement with the club’s senior squad.
A key figure in The Robins excellent early season run that included chipping in with 10 goals from midfield in just 7 games, Williams gets a glowing commendation from LFE’s Regional Officer in the South West, Roger Gibbins:
“He’s flying,” Gibbins said.
“To score that ratio of goals to games is phenomenal in anyone’s book and he’s been without a doubt the star man so far.
“He’s up to date with all his education. He’s being doing his coaching hours by working with the club’s younger age academy players, he’s virtually completed his NVQ and is well on target for a Merit or Distinction on his BTEC – there’s not a lot more he can do,” added the former Cardiff City midfield maestro.
Sam Szmodics hasn’t looked back since impressing during the Colchester’s pre-season programme. A further 9 goals in 6 games at youth level kept him in Joe Dunne’s thinking and he was rewarded with a League debut during the U’s 1-1 draw at Ashton Gate in September.
He has since made 3 consecutive first-team appearances for Dunne’s men.
Described as ‘a skilful, Crewe like footballer who likes to work the ball’ on the club’s own website, Jones has impressed LFE’s chief education officer, Keith Leighton:
“He’s making very good progress on and off the pitch,” said Leighton.
“This year he’s hit the ground running and is once again working to distinction level on his BTEC Extended Diploma. You can see he’s a determined and self-motivated individual who goes the extra mile by doing things like getting in his coaching hours working with the Under 12’s and Under 14’s.”
While he is yet to make a senior appearance, Huddersfield hold out high hopes for Wales youth International Jake Charles. Expectation is nothing new though for the youngster who operates in the hole behind the strikers and is the grandson of the legendary, John Charles – The Gentle Giant.
An integral part of The Terriers development squad the 17-year-old recently put pen to paper on a new deal that will keep him at The John Smith’s Stadium until 2017.
He can play in midfield and at a push at centre-half, he’s the England Under 18 skipper and has already won 21 caps at youth level. Not a bad CV to have! On top of that Bryn Morris continues to perform well in the classroom and was an obvious choice for LFE’s Paul Urwin.
A versatile defender who can operate at centre-back and full back, Guy’s composure on the ball and accurate left foot complement County’s footballing philosophy.
Clearly capable in the classroom – highlighted by receiving distinctions in every module of his work to date, regional officer John Barton hailed the 17-year-old as an ‘excellent all-rounder’.
Pompey’s Ben Close got the vote of LFE’s Ian Smithson after making a great start to the new season.
“He’s been outstanding,” said Smithson.
“If he continues to progress he has every chance of making the first-team before long. He’s been in at the Academy working with the younger players to get his coaching hours and he’s well on track educationally.”
A fixture at the heart of defence for Wales Under 17s, the Blades youth-team captain has already forced his way into his club’s Under 21 side and should his progress remain unchecked he will have little need of his back-up plan to become a P.E. Teacher.
“He takes his responsibilities as both a leader and a role model within the Academy very seriously,” said Paul Bartlett.
“He shows a willingness to go the extra mile that bodes well if he wants a career in the game and he’s well set to achieve academically as well.”
“Fey’s a real role model,” said his regional officer Gavin Willacy.
“He’s a mentor for the two younger players who he share digs with and he’s doing well with his studies achieving merits and distinctions on his BTEC as well as taking on an A Level in Psychology in his spare time.”
Progress on the pitch is also being made and Okenabirhie he received his inaugural first team call-up at the end of September, when he was handed the number 31 shirt and a place in the squad travelling to MK Dons.
He may have received a professional deal last term but Rob Evans’ effort and desire shows no sign of abating. The young midfielder who is the second youngest player ever to appear in the club’s first-team took the plaudits from LFE’s Claire Wilberforce:
“Rob works hard but his personality and his willingness to help others stands out,” Wilberforce said.
“He is a very reliable, trustworthy, driven individual that is a great role model to other apprentices.”