Academy manager Simon Hayward congratulates players on their hard work
Exeter City have offered nine players from their under-16s squad two-year scholarships at the club.
Ethan Ampadu, Joe Belsten, Will Dean, James Dodd, Jordan Dyer, Harry Gardner, Theo Simpson, Jack Sparkes and Josh Williams have all been offered two-year deals to continue their footballing education with the Grecians’ academy.
Academy manager, Simon Hayward, congratulated the players on earning the deals saying it was recognition for the hard work they have put in over the years.
He also thanked the personnel involved in getting the players to the position that they are in now.
“A big congratulations go to the nine players,” he said. “Most of them have been with us since they were playing for our under-9s, so eight years of hard work have gone in to get these guys to where they are.
“A massive thank you goes to their parents for running around after them and getting them to training, whilst the coaching staff, physios, and support staff have all got to be acknowledged too.
“There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that have got the players to where they are now and everyone has played their part.”
Simon also said the partnership the academy has with St Luke’s School, which helps maximise the time their young players can train without hindering their education, has played its part.
Ethan was one of the first players that went to St Luke’s School, at year seven, after this partnership had been set up.
“That partnership allows us to get an awful lot more training hours done during the week without massively interrupting their education,” said Simon.
“When I first took over the academy we had age groups training twice a week for an hour-and-a-half over a 36 week season.
“Ethan was part of the first group that was probably doing somewhere in the region of 14 to 14-and-a-half-hours a week over a 42, 44 or 46-week season. Those extra hours play a huge part in us developing good young football players.
“The way we have built the programme, with Mr Holt and Miss Sherwood’s support at St Luke’s, is deemed by League Football Education (LFE) to be a model that other clubs could follow.
“The LFE oversee the 72 Football League clubs and how their academy programmes interact with the education of their young players. They said our partnership with St Luke’s was the best they had come across in the way that it maximised football time but minimised the impact on schoolwork.”
The under-16s, under the guidance of academy coach Chad Gribble, have had a successful season. They got to the final of the South West midweek floodlit cup, the final of the national Football League competition for their age group and went the whole of their league campaign undefeated.
Simon says this has been recognised in the amount of players that have signed scholarships.
“It’s not often that we offer as many as nine under-16s a scholarship deal, but I feel that this is a really good group with plenty of strength in depth,” he said. “This is one of our most successful groups.
“The competitive games programme in the under-16s age group has gone on for three seasons now and it’s very evident that our guys have benefited from those games.
“As a result of performing well in that, these boys have been to two competitive finals this season as well as a semi-final last season. Those experiences should stand them in good stead for the under-18s and hopefully for their careers as professional footballers in the future.
However, Simon added that the hard work for these youngsters starts now.
“Their next focus is to earn professional deals in two years’ time, then they have to force their way into the first team and beyond that who knows,” he said.
“But for all of their success so far, we have to say that the hard work for those guys really starts now. The next hurdle on their footballing journey is much bigger than any they’ve encountered so far and the boys will have to adapt to being in full-time now, training every day, so now the graft really starts.”
There were a handful of under-16s who haven’t been issued scholarships at the present time. Morgan Cullen, Ollie Evans, Archie Reay, Charley Skilton, Lewis Slade and Harry Walford have all played their part in a successful season but, although they have been offered the chance to continue to train and play at the academy, they have not yet been offered scholarship terms.
“We appreciate the hard work the other six lads have put in during their time with us,” said Simon. “They have been a pleasure to work with and they are a real credit to the football club.
“These guys are decent young men who have played a very good standard of football and at this difficult time it is very hard not to offer scholarships to them just yet.
“The lads have been invited to stay with us until the end of the season, maybe beyond that as well. We will help these guys as much as we can through their GCSE exams, their future career choices and of course in their football.
“I hope they remain with us and I’m sure they will all be successful with whatever they decide to do in the future.”