We are delighted to announce that five Academy Graduates, Maine Walder, Harry Jones, Harvey Gregson, Rhys Long and Owen Robinson have signed their first professional contracts with the Club.

All five players were involved in the Academy’s remarkable run in the 2020/21 FA Youth Cup which saw them defeat Football League outfits Morecambe, Sunderland AFC, and Cambridge, before bowing out to Chelsea at the fourth-round stage. The graduates, who linked up with the first-team squad for pre-season on Monday, have all penned one-year deals.

Talking about the five professional deals, Academy Manager Chris Ganner said: “I am delighted that the club has shown its continued investment in the Academy. The 5 lads this season have been fantastic through such a historic and successful year at the Academy reaching the FA Youth Cup fourth round and winning the North West Youth Alliance league.

“These contracts give the lads an opportunity to continue their training for the next 12 months, while also gaining paid employment as a football coach with the North West’s Largest Coaching Company where we will work closely to continue their development in their non-football careers. This provides a backup plan for the players to fall back on if they need it. 

“A special mention has to go to Conrad Prendergast, who has done a phenomenal job with this group of talented players and we have some fantastic footballers who are moving onto other clubs and continuing their education at university.

“We are lucky to have such a fantastic team of coaches employed within the Academy, and teachers who work tirelessly to give the players the best possible route into further education and football. Those that have sadly left our Under-18 group are being supported in their next steps. We have produced player profiles and references that have been circulated around to other football clubs.

“I am extremely proud that we have signed five first-year pros from such a strong group – my only wish is that we could have kept more boys on. I am certain that the talent and progression we have seen from them in their time with us will continue and we will hear more positive success stories from others within this team.

“The five lads will now train with our first team on a daily basis – with the aim being to go out on loan to play men’s football further down the pyramid. The Chairman, CEO, and Manager, Jim Bentley, have provided this pathway for these boys and been fantastic with the support and investment in our youth development.

“We have a very talented Under-17’s group, while our Under-16’s have some extremely promising players who have joined us for next year. I am confident that more of these boys will use this as inspiration to follow in this year’s Under-18’s footsteps.

“Our Junior teams have reached National Cup finals at under-11’s and under-13’s, while the 12’s fell just short in their Northern final last Saturday. The future is extremely bright for the Academy, with so many talented players progressing within the game.”

A ‘Get To Know The Graduates’ feature will be published tomorrow, to give you more details on the five young Coasters who have committed their future to the Club.