Shrewsbury Town’s academy Professional Development Phase Coach Callum McKenzie caught up with ShrewsWeb to discuss recent events and updates from the club’s youth system.
Town’s academy is currently producing a number of players who continue to be involved with the first-team and continue to earn loan moves away from the club in order to experience first-team physical football outside of under 18’s competition. Luke Ward and Dan Walker have joined Haughmond F.C and Shawbury United respectively - with Archie Elmore also gaining a loan move with Whitchurch Alport.
With the second scholars going out on loan, and another four expected to joins clubs soon, this means that Town’s side against Blackpool was the youngest Town have fielded so far this season.
McKenzie is pleased with the recent batch of Town youngsters achieving these moves and hopes to see more young Shrews continue their development whilst playing senior professional football
“Those clubs have contacted us, we haven’t gone out and searched for loan clubs,” said Callum. “We had our own discussions about two or three of them going out on loan and gaining some men’s experience.
“They are at that stage where they are ready for it - they need to stretch themselves. We haven’t got that cushion of an under 23’s, so the next step is the first-team. The best way for them to show they can cope with that demand is by going out and playing men’s football.
“They are at local clubs playing a good level of football. Other clubs have enquired about others, so it has lead to a few others being asked to go on loan elsewhere. All three that have gone out have started really well.
“Unfortunately, James had a slight knock just before he was due to go out on loan. Now there is another two or three who are due to go out next week. Hopefully, this will accelerate their development and it gives opportunities to the first-year players to get game time in the under 18’s.”
A number of Town’s under 16 squad stepped up into the under 18’s squad to compete in Town’s EFL Youth Alliance Cup fixture and managed to help guide Salop to a 3-1 win over Blackpool.
McKenzie was pleased with the result and was delighted to see a number of younger players in the Town ranks step up and compete against an older age group. He said: “First of all, the result of the game was pleasing. On any given day, we have shown we can beat any team in the division.
“We beat Salford quite comfortably when they were at the top and we beat Accrington when they were top of the league. We have only fallen down a little bit because of a lack of consistency. Tom and Callum from the under 16’s played on Saturday – they coped really, really well.
“Tom scored towards the end of the game, it was a crucial goal for us because it was the goal that secured us a spot in the next round. His all-round performance was positive, he’s a big boy and will cause defenders problems.
“He’s quick, he’s powerful, and he’s a confident boy as well. We are looking forward to seeing how he develops over the next six months. Wilson just signed his scholarship as well and coped well against a team that are historically quite direct.
“It was a really big challenge for him and he coped very well. That’s all we can ask them to do at this stage. Cup games provide a different feeling for the lads and the week feels different.
“We went into that game needing to win to give us a chance of getting into the next round - the quarter-finals. The build-up to it is different and the players want to be involved. We aren't doing as well as we would like to in the league but the cup competitions have given us a lift.”
The Town academy will now be preparing for their Christmas break, but McKenzie admits the hard work won't stop for the young Salop professionals. He said: “They will work hard up until Thursday and will then have 10 days off.
“They will all have some programs to follow whilst they are away. Sometimes it is good for them to have a break from each other – the programme can be intense. They spend an awful lot of time together, physically it has been a demanding four or five months and it will do them good to have a little break.
"The main thing is to have them back hungry after a little bit of a break but the months after Christmas are important.”
You can follow all of Town’s latest academy news at @ShrewsAcademy on Twitter.
Shrewsbury Town 3 Tranmere Rovers 4
Saturday 30th November 2019
EFL Youth Alliance
Luke Burton, Jacob Bell, Zak Hartley, Lewis Redding, Edan Sears, Nigel Aris (Jamaine Turner 70), Lewis Duberry (Ryan Grosvenor 65), Charlie Caton, Ethan O’Toole, Liam Thomas (Charlie Dixon 75)
Subs: Sam Agius
Goals: C.Caton, L.Thomas, N.Aris
Blackpool 1 Shrewsbury Town 3
Saturday 7th December 2019
EFL Alliance League Cup
Luke Burton, Jacob Bell (Edan Sears 57), Zak Hartley, Lewis Duberry (Lewis Redding 45), Tom Davies, Callum Wilson, Nigel Aris (Jason Cooper 60), Ethan O’Toole, Charlie Caton, Liam Thomas (Ryan Grovsenor 70), Tom Bloxom
Subs: Sam Agius
Goals: C.Caton (2), T.Bloxom