Cambridge United Academy Manager Dom Knighton provides an update ahead of the 2022/23 season...
- Reflecting on 2021/22…
Whilst our Under 18s and Under 21s have returned to pre-season, our Under 9s-Under 13s season is only just coming to an end. As we look forward with excitement and optimism to another new season, it is essential that we make time to review and reflect on the 2021/22 season across the whole academy.
I would like to thank our players and parents for their application and commitment to the academy this season, it has been incredible and doesn’t go unnoticed. We hope that all of our schoolboys and their families enjoy a well deserved rest and we look forward to welcoming you back on your return.
Thank you to our fantastic team of staff that strive to create an environment that is passionate, positive and professional. You can have all the facilities in the world but it takes people to make a dream a reality.
In 2021/22 we saw four academy players make their EFL debuts for the football club. This is such a special achievement for the players and their families and something that can never be taken away from them. There is a marked difference however between making your debut and becoming a Cambridge United player.
We believe that when you have established yourself as a starter across two seasons you can be considered a Cambridge United first team player. To establish yourself as a Cambridge United starter across two seasons is obviously incredibly difficult and we continue to be innovative and creative to best prepare our players to make this step.
We are extremely fortunate to have a head coach in Mark Bonner who is prepared to give the boys an opportunity. I know Gary Waddock, Barry Corr and Martin Davies are big supporters of developing our youth players and the opportunities they provide our young players are priceless.
- On the FA Youth Cup journey…
The FA Youth Cup run is something that we can reflect on with great pride. It is obviously encouraging to see how far we progressed in the competition, but it was even more satisfying to see how the group were able to overcome the different challenges that were presented to them through the rounds.
This competition always provides a different environment for our players and our coaches. The fixtures against Leeds United and Nottingham Forest at the Abbey were real highlights of the competition with the performances delivered but the whole journey was one that our players and coaches alike will be better for.
- St Neots Collaboration…
As part of the club’s collaboration with St Neots Town, both Joe Tarpey and Charlie Stallard have both been offered one year contracts with the Saints. Both players will continue their development between St Neots and Cambridge United for the forthcoming season.
Last season was the first full season since the announcement of the collaboration at the start of 2020 due to the pandemic and in that time we have now seen three players earn professional contracts with Cambridge United. Liam Bennett was the first player to be offered a development deal via St Neots in 2020 and last season the 20-year-old made 10 appearances for the Cambridge United first team, including two Man of the Match performances in League One.
We recognise that one of the biggest challenges is making the step up into the first team environment and as an academy we continue to strive to best prepare our young players for this challenge. We are really pleased that our club’s collaboration with St Neots Town FC is continuing to provide this platform.
These two boys will experience a mixture of senior football and U21 football within our Emerging Talent Group. We are extremely grateful for the relationship with St Neots Town FC, they play a pivotal role in the development of our players and we are really pleased that the programme continues to grow.
- Academy boys moving on…
Alongside our players progressing through our internal pathway, from time to time our players may leave the academy through external sources as has been the case this season. We have agreed compensation with Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea for two of our players this season. We wish both of these players and their families well for the future, they know they leave with our full support and thank them for their commitment and conduct while they have represented the academy.
Unfortunately, not all of our young players are able to gain a contract moving forwards and we will continue to support Adam Brumby, Nathan Braithwaite, Jordan Chipps, Jonah Gill, Frank Nzeh, Nehemiah Richard Noel & George Whitehall as they move onto the next steps of their journey away from the football club.
Some of these boys have spent more than half of their young lives in a U’s shirt, representing the club both in England and around Europe in tournaments and their parents have also driven thousands of miles to enable them to play against some of the best young talent in the country over the years.
We are both extremely grateful to each and every one of them for the way they have conducted themselves during their time at the club and also very proud of the young men they have become.
Although their journey at Cambridge United has come to an end, we will continue to offer them support whether this be in their interview preparation, CV’s, player highlight video’s, coaching qualification and experience as well as wellbeing and educational support as they transition away from the academy.
The club would like to offer its congratulations to Joe Tarpey and Charlie Stallard on their respective contracts.
We also want to wish Adam Brumby, Nathan Braithwaite, Jordan Chipps, Jonah Gill, Frank Nzeh, Nehemiah Richard Noel and George Whitehall the best of luck with their future endeavours and once again thank them for their commitment to Cambridge United Football Club.