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Apprentices making the breakthrough at City
4:07pm Thursday 7th March 2013 in Sport
FORMER Celtic, West Ham and Ipswich winger Stuart Slater, now part of the management for Chelmsford City’s apprentices, is delighted to see two of the club’s youngsters supplement Glenn Pennyfather’s first team during an injury and suspension crisis.
Forwards Joshua Fagbohun and Joe Ward have been involved in recent Blue Square Bet South matches as Pennyfather attempts to work with a squad which had up to ten absentees or doubts for the midweek trip to Weston-super-Mare.
Glenn was equally delighted to welcome prospects from the Chelmsford College-linked side, and Slater believes that could pave the way for future talents to progress.
“There are plenty of other players who can break through,” he revealed. “The rest have seen Josh and Joe progress and it’s made them hungrier to do that themselves. We’ve got a definite pathway now to progress into the men’s game and the latest two lads have shown what’s achievable if you work hard enough.”
Chelmsford added three more points with an impressive 3-1 victory at Staines Town last Saturday.
Following the trip to Weston on Tuesday, where they included striker Michael Bakare who’s returned to the club, Pennyfather’s side now focus on home fixtures with Tonbridge Angels (3pm on Saturday) and AFC Hornchurch (7.45pm on Monday).
Fagbohun and Ward are both likely to feature in Glenn’s plans in some way, and Stuart said: “Josh is a forward in his first year with us after spending some time with Leyton Orient. He’s got a fantastic attitude and he’s still only 16.
“He’s aggressive and has always been a very good player who’s really come on in the last few months.”
“Joe’s another attacking-minded player who’s with us for his second season.
“He arrived out of nowhere really, and impressed us with his trial last year. That’s seen him find his way into the team. His ability is never in any doubt and, with a little guidance, he’s become a quicker and stronger player.”
Slater’s own transfer from the Hammers to Celtic was a £1.5million record at the time but, in 2004, he was forced to retire due to injury.
However, he turned that to his advantage by putting into practice the coaching knowledge he’d gained from working under some of the game’s greatest managers. He now has a UEFA B licence and has coached and managed teams at West Ham United’s Youth Academy.
City’s apprentices have teams in the top five of the Football Conference Youth Alliance and the top half of the English Colleges League in the name of Chelmsford College.
Under the guidance of former Clarets player Kirk Game, goalkeeping coach Glen Johnson as well as Slater, 30 boys train as full time players while studying academically at the college. They also help on matchdays.
They’ve achieved some notable victories so far this season, including wins over Dagenham & Redbridge and Colchester United, plus senior boss Pennyfather witnessed a 5-1 hammering of Dartford last Friday.
“We managed to get through to the last eight of the Conference Cup for the first time, and recently had six wins on the spin,” Stuart explained. That’s meant pro clubs have been sniffing around.”
“But the players’ first opportunity is always at Chelmsford City.”
The club and college are now looking to recruit talented players to join the scheme for the 2013/14 season, presenting an opportunity to not only further their playing careers, but also have access to a number of educational programmes and work-related qualifications.
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