Academy boss Darren Edmondson spoke to us about the good news that seven of next year’s first-year intake will be made up of players who have come through the club’s own academy system.
“I sat down with Gav Skelton, Dave Wilkes, Mark Birch and Chris Blake and we looked at the previous history of lads who have come through the academy, to see who made it through as a first year professional and who didn’t,” he explained. “We looked back over a ten-year period and we considered how many lads lived at home, how many stayed in accommodation, and how many were Cumbrians.
“We felt that we would try to go with as big a squad as possible who are Cumbria-based this year to see if that will make a difference to how these lads progress. Seven of our first-year crop, who will start with us next season, are from our own academy, and we’re quite excited about that.
“We already know about Josh Galloway and Tom Wilson, we spoke about them a few weeks ago, and this group of five signings adds to that.”
“Liam Lightfoot is from Wigton and he’s a centre back with a really good attitude,” he continued. “He’s different to Tom, which is what we need, and he’s a player who likes to get stuck in, but I think he can also handle a football when he needs to.
“Charlie Birch lives in Scotby and he is a good left back who has a strong left foot. He’s competent in possession and he’s confident enough to try things, which is nice to see. I have to say that we deliberately kept his dad away from the final decision on whether to take him or not, because that was the right thing to do.
“Taylor Charters, a Maryport lad, is a really good midfielder, also with a strong left foot. He’s another who is comfortable with the ball at his feet and we’ll be working with him on what he needs to do when the team is out of possession.
“Jamie Armstrong is from Newcastleton and he’s what you could describe as a box-to-box midfielder. He isn’t frightened of a tackle and he likes to win the ball back, and then feed it off. He’ll complement Taylor well with the attributes the pair bring to the team.
“At right back we have Charlie Barnes, another Carlisle lad. He’s a good athlete, who has pace, and he can also pick a pass.”
“All of these lads have areas to work on because you’re never going to be the finished article at that age,” he explained. “One thing that has stood out with four or five of these lads is that they are physically well developed for their ages. When you look at the likes of Holt and Salkeld, who made it through this year, the thing that catches your eye with them is their frame and stature.
“There is a physical element to the league these lads are aiming to play in and they have to be able to handle it. They have their scholarships now so it’s up to the lads to grasp the opportunity they’ve been given.”
“We still have room for three more signings,” he confirmed. “We’ll keep looking for the right players, be that Cumbrians or players from further afield. We’ve looked at a couple of keepers on trial and, if we don’t find the players we want, we’ll take it to the exit trials in February and see what we can pick up from there.
“The pleasing thing about having taken seven from our own academy is that if you have a system in place like this, you’ve got to try and make it work. We’ve lost lads to bigger clubs at the age of 13 and 14, which is great for them, but we’d rather see them come through and get into our first team.
“That’s where Dave Wilkes and his role of Head of Coaching becomes important because he gets to oversee the standard of coaching these lads get. It’s been great for us already and I know the coaches and players will benefit from his input. The aim is to have a conveyor belt of YTS players who will come through our system and hopefully get professional deals.
“We’ll make sure the correct development path is in place to help them to do that, but the thing which often lets these young lads down is their attitude and application. The good thing about bringing your own players through is that you know the right mentality is already embedded within them.
“The other thing is that they’ll have a real affiliation for the club, simply because they’ve been with us from a young age. That has to be a plus. The togetherness and team spirit are part of what they do anyway, and the desire to win games will be there from the offset.”