It’s been another successful season for United’s under-16 age group with five players making it through to the under-18 two-year scholarship programme.
Academy manager Simon Friel said: “As an academy it’s really pleasing to be able to offer these players a youth team scholarship for next season, and this is testament to the hard work and commitment they have put in over their time with us.
“There is a clear pathway for our academy players at this club which is something that is exciting for every player involved in their journey with us.
“Seeing previous academy players such as Taylor Charters, Lewis Bell and Sam Fishburn, to name a few, push on to be involved and play for the first team should inspire and motivate not only next year’s youth cohort, but all academy players to keep pushing themselves to be the best they can be.
“Personally I’m very proud of the players and look forward to seeing their progress within the under-18 programme.”
Youth boss Mark Birch said: “It’s a good turnaround out of the group and we’re pleased we’ve got so many through. It’s a pat on the back for the academy coaches who worked alongside them for the last seven or eight years.
“With us having the five from our own crop it leaves us with a few places to fill, and we tend to look outside the area at players released from Cat 1 clubs over in the north-east, or down towards Lancashire, and things like that.
“Obviously we’re looking for lads with good ability who we feel will have a chance of making it through.”
“What we’ve shown over the last few years is that there’s a clear pathway from our academy age groups to the scholarship programme,” he added.
“The proof in the pudding is that we have Taylor Charters and Josh Dixon who are involved with the first-team squad, Lewi Bell is on the fringes, and both of our second-year goalkeepers have spent time with the senior group.
“Sam Fishburn has started games regularly recently, and if you look further afield you see our players who have moved on, with the likes of Jarrad Branthwaite, Josh Galloway, Liam McCarron, James Trafford and Joe White.
“They’re all doing great things and at some part they’ve been part of our system. We want to continue with that and that’s why we’ll always bring the players through who we feel have the best chance of pushing on.
“Hopefully some of next year’s first-year recruits will be successful in achieving that dream as well.”
The players are:
Jake is an aggressive player who looks to break up the opposition play and drive his team forward when on the ball. He likes to dictate the game when on the ball and will pick a forward pass, getting the team on the attack, whenever possible. He contributes his fair share of goals and will shoot when from close or long range as the opportunity allows.
Winger / attacking midfielder
Aran is a quietly confident and a versatile left-sided player. He carries a real threat when going forward and shows good quality in the final third. He has good skill on the ball and enjoys dribbling and beating his opponent. He has good vision and can link play with his teammates. Importantly he delivers quality crosses into the box from open play and set pieces.
Sam is a quiet, industrious lad, but he makes a big impact when he plays with a strong work ethic. He is a creative midfielder with good vision and he has the ability to create and score goals. His technical prowess on the ball allows him to beat his opposition in tight areas and drive his team forward.
Romeo is a confident, strong, powerful and speedy forward who is a threat in the final third. He has a good work ethic and enjoys beating his man in one against one situations. He weighs in with plenty of assists and goals. His movement and forward runs allow him to get into good scoring positions, and he shows good determination when playing. This leads to him winning possession back for the team higher up the pitch.
Robbie is a quiet, reserved lad, but he comes alive when on the pitch with good attacking instincts. He enjoys having the ball at his feet, driving at the opposition and creating goalscoring opportunities, whilst also chipping in with goals from the midfield area. He consistently shows a good attitude and has a strong work ethic, which allows him to break the play up well in midfield as he also seeks to spark the attacking side of the game.
Pictured above, from left to right, are: Simon Friel, Jake Allan, Aran Fitzpatrick, Sam Hetherington, Mark Birch, Romeo Park, Robbie Swinburn and John Foley.