RUGBY TOWN: Buzzing Town scholars back in action
By Jon Venner
Rugby Town's academy is back in full swing, with its manager Liam O'Neill full of praise for the way his current intake have returned to Butlin Road after the enforced lockdown break.
O'Neill explained: "It's been a tough few months ensuring that the education programme was delivered remotely, but there were some excellent on-line sessions from a number of current and ex-professional players and we also made sure that everyone was given a fitness plan to follow at home.
"We're proud of the fact that the lads have all come back in great shape, and they've been really buzzing in the training sessions we've had. With the energy and enthusiasm levels we have seen, it actually feels like we are starting a new academy year."
O'Neill and his coaches have been working hard to get a squad ready to compete in a cup competition organised by the Midland Floodlit Youth League.
Town kicked-off their participation in the Ray Mercer Memorial Shield on Wednesday 7th with a trip to the Oval to face a Bedworth youth side, with further group fixtures to follow against Rugby Borough, Stratford, RC Warwick and Coventry United over the coming weeks.
O'Neill continued: "We were really pleased when we discovered there was something competitive for us and we've been working hard to prepare them for this."
A number of other friendly games have been arranged to ensure that the other students have the chance of match action too - including a prestige opportunity of facing teams from the Birmingham City academy at St.Andrews in May.
The Academy boss said: "It'll be great for those involved to play at a fine professional stadium, and we've also got another trip to the FA's National Football Centre at St George's Park booked in for May to take part in a PFA coaching programme - so it's going to be a busy couple of months for us."
Town's academy was launched in 2018 and continues to go from strength to strength - currently offering a full-time football/education BTEC Scholarship programme to around 70 students aged between 16 and 19 years old.
The latest individual success story has seen 16 year old striker Tyler Scott offered a trial at League One club Burton Albion, leaving O'Neill to reflect on the accomplishments of the programme so far.
He concluded: "Tyler is a special talent and it would be great if he's taken on there, as that would be three of our lads ending up at a professional club in just three years.
"It just shows that there's always a chance that you can get noticed, and whilst I accept there's an element of luck involved, we also believe that the way we coach, develop and nurture talent here has something to do with it too!"
If Scott makes the move into a professional set-up, he would match the achievements of previous Valley academy students Jai Rowe and Ben Starkie.
Rowe signed for Scunthorpe United in 2019 and has started more than 20 first team games this season, whilst Starkie signed for German professional outfit SV Wilhelmshaven having received international honours for the Tanzania Under 19 team when still at Butlin Road.