LFE takes a closer look at the players to make ‘The 11’ in June 2019 and why they’ve been included:
Zach Jeacock (Birmingham City)
Zach has excelled on and off the pitch as an apprentice, achieving a triple D* profile academically, while also gaining a three-year professional contract and receiving a call-up to an England training camp.
The young goalkeeper kept five clean sheets in nine appearances for the Under-23s this season, most notably playing in the Premier Development League 2 National Play-Off final, where the Blues were narrowly defeated on penalties by Leeds United.
Head of Education & Welfare Mark Sinclair told LFE: “Zach is an excellent ambassador for the football club, and somebody who has embraced all aspects of his apprenticeship, with him maximising his opportunities to continually develop himself and others.
“He is finishing with 19 Distinction grades across his BTEC Extended Diploma. He has been equally impressive in his football programme, making fantastic progress and achieving plenty of recognition.”
Tom Dickens (Cambridge United)
First-year apprentice Tom has displayed a great deal of maturity this year, taking pride in his responsibilities as a player and a student, as well as understanding how to develop his growth mindset.
Head of Education Vanessa Walker told LFE: “Thomas has worked extremely hard, completing 11 units towards the 19-unit Extended Diploma. He has always pushed himself to get the best grade and worked at home if necessary to secure all distinctions.
“Within his NVQ, he can express his football knowledge with ease and uses the knowledge gained to apply to his performances on the pitch.”
Academy manager Tom Pell added: “Tom utilities every member of staff to aid his development. He is always the first to ask if he can sit down to review his clips from matches and asks for other areas to improve. More importantly, he is very honest with himself.
“This attitude has seen him being included in the few reserve games we have played during the latter part of the season. I firmly believe Tom has the attributes that could see him making his way into professional football in the next few years.”
Noah Chilvers (Colchester United)
Noah has been in and around the first-team since November, when he was included in the squad for an FA Cup tie with Accrington Stanley, and went on to make his senior bow against Newport County in March before a second Sky Bet League Two outing at Lincoln City two months later.
Under-23s Coach Richard Hall said: “He is a good character in the dressing room and around the training ground, leading by example with a fantastic work ethic. Noah’s never afraid to accept the ball and he has scored some incredible goals.”
First-team Assistant Coach Steve Ball added: “I have worked with Noah since he was 12 years of age. Noah has very strong technical attributes, and coupled with a high level of work ethic, I’m sure he will continue to move forward.”
Alongside his playing commitments, Noah has also excelled educationally. He has been able to complete his NVQ studies, while continuing to achieve levels of excellence with his BTEC studies at Thurstable School, finishing the programme with D*D*D*.
His teacher, Ruth Macro, said: “Noah has set the standard for how an apprentice should be around our school. His timekeeping, maturity and willingness to learn have meant that he has been able to thrive over the 2 years.”
Rio Adebisi (Crewe Alexandra)
Rio has had a positive change in attitude to his education this year and produced work to an excellent standard, while the defender has also been impressive on the pitch, starring for Crewe’s Under-18s and Under-23s before joining Leek Town on loan in March.
Upon his arrival, the Northern Premier League Division One West club went nine games unbeaten to reach the play-offs, while Rio then returned to The Alex to scoop the Harold Finch Scholar of the Year award.
Lecturer in Sports Performance Lauren Goff told LFE: “Rio has been attentive in lessons and was enthusiastic to complete the BTEC Diploma to the very best of his ability, gaining an overall DD. He is one of the more mature members of the group and was selected as his teams’ captain for the season, demonstrating his apt for responsibility and leadership.
“Rio has really worked on his organisation and time management skills to juggle training commitments and academic workload, which have been an important learning curve. He is clearly aware of the challenges placed upon professionals in the sporting industry and certainly has the dedication required.”
Jason Knight (Derby County)
Promising midfielder Jason has enjoyed tremendous success on the pitch this season, contributing to Derby’s Under-18 Premier League North and National titles.
The 18-year-old was rewarded with a spot on the bench for the Rams’ Play-Off semi-final second leg at Leeds United and final against Aston Villa at Wembley, while he has also captained the Republic of Ireland at Under-18 level and was recently selected for the ongoing Under-21 Toulon Tournament.
Head of Education & Welfare Simon Ord told LFE: “Jason has been a delight to work with in every aspect of his apprenticeship and has proved to be an invaluable character both on and off the pitch.
“He has achieved over his target grade of MM, gaining a DM for his BTEC and also completing functional skills Maths and English at the first time of asking.
“He is a classic low maintenance player who has total commitment and dedication to his profession, which has been rewarded with a new two-year professional contract. Jason has got fully involved in all our community engagement work and is a natural leader in all disciplines.”
Charlie Cresswell (Leeds United)
Charlie has displayed an exemplary attitude and determination towards his apprenticeship. He has captained the Under-18s and engaged with the Under-23 squad since the start of the season, despite only being a first-year apprentice.
The 16-year-old has consistently pushed himself and others to develop on the training pitch and in the classroom, showing excellent leadership skills throughout the season both on and off the pitch.
“Charlie has a mature and dedicated approach to his personal development and takes time to explore the wider industry,” Head of Education & Welfare Katie Slee told LFE. “His hunger to learn and put himself out of his comfort zone is highly commendable.
“He is studying the Extended Diploma with consistently high grades and adherence to deadlines. Charlie has already completed his Level 2 coaching certificate and performed well working with a pan-disability team as part of his coaching hours.
“Charlie acts as a good role model and sets himself and his squad high standards. He is often the last to leave the classroom and has spent additional time working on next season’s units with the BTEC tutor.
“On the pitch, he has scored 10 goals from centre-back this season and has played an integral role in the Under-18s team coming joint top in the PDL North division, losing out on being back-to-back champions on goal difference.”
George Alexander (Millwall)
Being the son of a Millwall cult hero is not easy when you are trying to become a Lions star yourself, but striker George has coped exceedingly well with that expectation so far.
A decade after his dad, Gary, scored one of the greatest goals the new Wembley Stadium has ever seen to seal promotion for Millwall in a play-off final, George made his first-team debut, coming on in the final Championship fixture of the season at Wigan, along with fellow second-year apprentice Billy Mitchell.
LFE Regional Officer Gavin Willacy said: “George has had a prolific season in the Professional Development League for Millwall Under-23s and has matched that off the field.
“Having come onto the apprenticeship with just three GCSEs, George has completed the BTEC Subsidiary Diploma, the NVQ, Functional Skills Maths and English, impressing all staff at Millwall and London South East College in the process.”
Scott Pollock (Northampton Town)
Scott joined the apprenticeship last September having spent a year impressing on Northampton’s Football and Education Programme shadow squad.
The attacking midfielder was instantly prolific in front of goal in the youth ranks, helping the Under-18s win the EFL Youth Alliance South East division. By March, he had made his first-team debut in Sky Bet League Two and been offered a professional contract, before completing a memorable year by claiming the club’s Young Player of the Season award.
It has been a dream come true for the 18-year-old, who is a lifelong Cobblers fan and was a season-ticket holder at Sixfields before ending up on the pitch rather than in the stands.
“Scott is a humble, local lad who shot to fame online with his performances for Hashtag United,” Regional Officer Gavin Willacy said. “It has been an eventful season for him, starting in the Under-18s, having a successful loan at St Neots Town and then ending the season with five first-team appearances, but he has just taken it in his stride.
“In addition to his playing exploits, Scott is excelling in the classroom, where he is on course for an extremely high grade on his BTEC Extended Diploma.”
Arvin Appiah (Nottingham Forest)
England Under-19 international Arvin started the season representing the Young Lions at the UEFA European Under-17 Championships and then established himself as an ever-present in Nottingham Forest’s Under-23s side.
The exciting forward scored on his senior debut during a Carabao Cup defeat to Burton Albion in October, and amassed six Sky Bet Championship appearances after the turn of the year.
“Arvin has been excellent to work with and really has a desire to be the best he can be. His work ethic and willingness to improve stands him apart,” Professional Development Coach Gareth Holmes told LFE. “On top of this, Arvin is an excellent human-being who is totally respected by players and staff throughout the club.”
Meanwhile, despite being involved with the first-team and spending time away with England, the 18-year-old has remained dedicated to his studies, as well as attending numerous community events, including visits to local primary schools and hospitals.
Head of Education & Welfare Chris Caunt said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to teach Arvin. He approaches all lessons and topics with an outstanding attitude and constantly wants to challenge himself and achieve the highest level possible. He is a role model for the rest of the group with his positive attitude and humble demeanour.
“Arvin completed his education course in January and despite regularly training with the first team, elected to continue his studies and push himself to achieve the next level qualification. This is more evidence of his outstanding attitude and high work ethic. Arvin’s initial target grade was to achieve a Pass on the subsidiary diploma – he has exceeded this by achieving Merits on the 90-credit diploma.”
Ryan Campbell-Gordon (Port Vale)
Ryan found education at high school challenging and was out of school for at least six months until the Ormiston Horizon Academy in Chell accepted him and provided both pastoral and academic support, entering him for GCSEs in Year 11.
Since becoming an apprentice, his academic record has gone from strength to strength, passing his Functional Skills in a short time and passing the BTEC course, while his footballing performance has led to him winning Port Vale’s Youth Team Player of the Year award.
Head of Education Chris Taylor told LFE: “In completing his education, Ryan has gained the equivalent of two A-Levels, which is a remarkable achievement considering the difficulties he had previously encountered.
“Ryan met with some challenging situations in the local community and was greatly helped by a mentoring meeting with Jeff Whitley from Sporting Chance.
“He has fully deserved the opportunity of being awarded a two-year professional contract. His story is an excellent example in football of someone facing various challenges and succeeding by hard work both on and off the pitch.”
Scott Smith (Wigan Athletic)
Under-18 captain Scott has led a Wigan side that enjoyed unprecedented success this season, winning the EFL Youth Alliance North West division, EFL Youth Alliance Cup and Lancashire FA Youth Cup.
The tenacious midfielder was rewarded with the offer of a professional contract, while he received a call-up to Wales’ Under-19 squad for a training camp in May.
LFE Regional Officer Claire Wilberforce-Marsh said: “Scott has been a terrific leader of a hugely successful team. He sets an example to the rest of the group with his attitude and work ethic, both on and off the pitch.
“Academically, he has completed the NVQ, Level 2 Coaching and achieved tremendous grades on his BTEC. Scott has also been involved in a few community events on his own recently, showing he is a model apprentice for others to aspire to.”