It’s Youth Development Week in the EFL and to celebrate it, we are looking at the growth of the Academy over the last four years and the talent that has reached the first team from the younger age groups.
With 15 players making league appearances for the first-team since 2018, it’s fair to say that our Academy has been producing football league talent for some time now. Starting with Nathan Sheron, who made his league debut against Oxford United in November 2018. He stayed with the side for three years, making 27 League One appearances and 38 in total, before moving away and joining Scottish side St Mirren.
Near the end of the 2018/19 season, multiple players made the step up into adult football in a short space of time. Ged Garner (52 appearances), Ryan Rydel (19 appearances), Barry Baggley (nine appearances), and Dan Mooney (four appearances) all stepped up and impressed in the first-team.
Another name who featured for the first time in early 2019 is James Hill. A fans-favourite, who is adored by the Cod Army, went on to become a first-team regular and managed to make 53 appearances in all competitions before gaining international attention with clubs like Barcelona scouting him. The youngster ended up making the move up to the top of the Championship with AFC Bournemouth in January 2022 for a club-record fee.
Next up is another player who has made the move away, this time to the Premier League with Everton, and that is goalkeeper Billy Crellin. With 13 appearances to his name, the Under-17 World Cup winner and England Under-20 international, came all the way through the Academy, impressing all the way through and his hard work has paid off, getting a big move to progress his career to the next level in January 2022.
Speaking of players who have been sold on to benefit the Academy, Jay Matete is next up who became not only a constant figure in the first-team after his league debut in September 2020, but he became one of the fans’ favourite players for his work in the middle of the park every game. 41 was the number of appearances he left the club on, as he left for a substantial fee to Sunderland and made his debut alongside former Premier League star Jermain Defoe.
Before the end of the 2020/21 season, two more players would make their debuts for the Cods, defender Harrison Holgate and winger Shayden Morris. Even though they are both very different players, the fans instantly took a liking to both of them as they leave nothing on the pitch every time they play. Both have been nominated for man of the match awards regularly and have a combined 64 appearances to their names.
It seems to be the year of internationals making their debuts this season, with five players who have wither featured for Northern Ireland’s Under-21s or the Republic of Ireland’s Under-19s in the last 12 months. Paddy Lane is the first name on this sub-list, who joined the side in the summer from non-league, has found the net on three occasions, and currently leads the way for League One assists this season with eight.
His fellow countryman who is deemed the Belfast magician, Chris Conn-Clarke, and Carl Johnston are both now firmly part of the first-team setup each matchday, with 18 appearances between them this season, alongside Republic of Ireland Under-19 international Cian Hayes, who has been named in the squad a further 14 times.
The last, and most recent, name on the list is Dylan Boyle who has recently made the move into the main squad after making his league debut against Bolton Wanderers in December 2021, after captaining the side in their Papa John’s Trophy clash against the same side just two weeks before.
Below is a list of all the Academy graduates who have accumulated 370 appearances in all competitions for the Cods since the start of the 2018/19 season:
Featured in the first team in the league as well as other competitions
Dylan Boyle – four appearances in all competitions (2021-present)
Cian Hayes – 14 appearances in all competitions (2021-present)
Carl Johnston – 13 appearances in all competitions (2021-present)
Chris Conn-Clarke – five appearances in all competitions (2021-present)
Paddy Lane – 25 appearances in all competitions (2021-present)
Shayden Morris – 32 appearances in all competitions (2021-present)
Harrison Holgate – 32 appearances in all competitions (2020-present)
Jay Matete – 41 appearances in all competitions (2020-22)*
Billy Crellin – 13 appearances in all competitions (2019-22)*
Dan Mooney – four appearances in all competitions (2019-20)*
James Hill – 53 appearances in all competitions (2019-22)*
Barry Baggley – nine appearances in all competitions (2019-present)
Ryan Rydel – 19 appearances in all competitions (2019-21)*
Ged Garner – 52 appearances in all competitions (2019-present)
Nathan Sheron – 38 appearances in all competitions (2018-21)*
Featured in the first-team outside of the league
Sam Bird – two appearances in all competitions (2021-present)
Ben Thompson – one appearance in all competitions (2021-present)
Max McMillan – two appearances in all competitions (2021-present)
Chiekh Thiam – two appearances in all competitions (2021-present)
Connor Teale – two appearances in all competitions (2021-present)
Sam Barrett – one appearance in all competitions (2020)*
Akiel Raffie – three appearances in all competitions (2020-present)
Laurence Smith – two appearances in all competitions (2020-21)*
Lewis Baines – one appearance in all competitions (2018-19)*
*Players have been sold and are playing in various levels of the footballing pyramid*