NEW FACES IN THE ACADEMY
It is time once more to look inside the Academy, where there is a new batch of first-year scholars to introduce and good news for several new professionals.
Nathan Ake, John Swift and Lewis Baker have each signed three-year deals with the club, while Alex Davey, Anjur Osmanovic and Adam Nditi have all signed for two years. James Ashton has signed a one-year extension to his already existing deal.
Coming in are 17 new scholars, and to introduce them, we spoke to Jim Fraser, the assistant Academy manager, who knows each of the players and their qualities well.
Mitchell (pictured below) joined us at Under-12 from Gillingham, so he has been with us a few years now. He is a tall goalkeeper and played in the youth team a lot last year with Jamal Blackman stepping up. He was also on the bench for our Youth Cup campaign.
An Essex boy, George came to us as an Under-11. A right-sided player he mainly plays out wide and has also played centrally in midfield or as a number 10.
Dion came as a trial player at Under-13, having previously been at Fulham. He came as a midfielder but we quickly reverted him to a centre-back. He is strong and commanding.
Fankaty signed after a six-week trial period at Under-12. He has played everywhere in his schoolboy years, but has found a position at right-back and has represented England at schoolboy level. He has a superb engine.
Ben has been with us since Under-8. Another goalkeeper, he has already been here eight years and he has developed very well in that time.
We worked tirelessly to sign Alex (pictured below), who joined us after leaving Rotherham a couple of years ago. He was looked at by a number of clubs in the north and then the London area, and he signed for us as a striker. An exciting player, he has electric pace and was a national champion in the 100 metres. An England international.
Ambrose came as a trial player at Under 14, and plays left-back or left-wing. Strong, quick and powerful, he has a lot of potential and we feel he could develop well. He is a local boy.
Jordan (pictured below) is from Staines and has been with us from Under-8. He used to be a midfielder but has played as a centre-back more over the past few years and we feel he can do either. He has captained England and stepped up to the Under-17 squad.
Chike came to us after leaving Birmingham last year. He has found it difficult to come in consistently due to his schooling, so now he is full time it will be a test for him to hit the ground running. A right-footed striker, he is a Welsh schoolboy international.
Jonathan is another local player, who came in at Under-14 as a trial player and did really well. He can play anywhere across the back but mostly plays in the middle, and is a very consistent performer with a committed approach.
Reece was signed through our summer camp as an Under-11. When we signed him there were other London clubs looking at him. He has always played as a striker or on the wing, and has played for England in the Victory Shield. Like Alex, he is very quick and exciting to watch.
Jesse signed as an Under-12 after leaving Portsmouth, and hails from Brighton. A diminutive left-footed midfielder, he is technically very strong and controls the tempo of a game. He is also adept at free-kicks.
Kevin is another from Essex, who came in on trial at Under-10. He was an attack-minded left-sided player but has since moved back to left-back with very pleasing results. He is honest, hard-working and always smiling!
Ruben has been here since Under-8 and is a talented box-to-box midfielder who has also played at the back. He captained England in the Victory Shield and impressed last season in the youth team before picking up an injury with his hip and groin.
Signed last year from Celtic, striker Islam (pictured below) has already made his Scottish Under-21 debut and scored goals in our FA Youth Cup win. He's an exciting player to watch with an explosive turn of pace.
Andreas has been at Brondby for the past eight years. Ourselves and many other clubs were looking to sign him, and we worked hard to bring him here. He is a tall ball-playing centre-back, much like Ricardo Carvalho, and we are excited to see how he develops in our programme. His father is a former professional goalkeeper.
Swedish, Isak joins us from Angereds, the same side as Amin Affane and Anjur Osmanovic. An international at Under-16, he has suffered a few injuries but we are hoping he will be fit for the new season to get going immediately. He is a ball-winning central midfielder.