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READ | Millers to share experiences of Academy players across the age groups as club celebrate Youth Development Week 2021

11 June 2021

Rotherham United are proud to be joining our colleagues from around the EFL in shining a light on the fantastic work done by our club’s academy setups as we celebrate Youth Development Week which kicks off on Monday 7th June 2021.

The timing of this year’s activity has been selected to coincide with the lead-up to the Euros, providing us with the opportunity to demonstrate the importance of the EFL and its clubs in supporting the national team, with many players from the network of academies around the country producing stars for the international stage.

Throughout the week we will be sharing the experiences of players across a variety of age groups on our social media channels as part of the #RaisedInTheEFL hashtag, as we celebrate the fantastic work carried out by our Academy players and staff over countless hours each season, which can sometimes go unseen.

 

Here at Rotherham United, our Academy teams stand for so much more than just a game of football for youngsters at a weekend.

It is a chance for aspiring Millers fans to follow in the footsteps of their idol and wear the crest of their favourite team as a badge of honour.

Beyond that, we firmly believe that those who aren’t among the select few that are able to progress to the heights of first team football, leave as better people and individuals who have been brought up in a culture whereby self-development both on and off the pitch is of the highest priority.

Of course, from a club viewpoint, it is incredibly satisfying in the instances where all those years of hard work and dedication do pay off and a player graduates from youth level to the first team.

Ben Wiles, who heralds from Rawmarsh, is a fine example of a player successfully navigating the pathway to the first team and becoming an established regular too, having surpassed 100 senior appearances during the 2020/21 season, despite being just 21-years old.

 

Wiles in Academy days.png

Ben Wiles during his early days with Academy

 

The production line of players didn’t start or stop with Ben though, who is just one example of many of the recent success stories to make the step up.

Forward Jerry Yates, promoted with Blackpool via the Sky Bet League One Play-offs recently earned his footballing stripes with the Millers before departing for Bloomfield Road last year, whilst the eyes of staff and supporters alike are firmly fixed on the progress of exciting attacking prospect Joshua Kayode – who has been setting Sky Bet League Two alight with his performances whilst on loan with Carlisle United.

 

Meanwhile, also in the first team ranks at present having previously represented the Academy headed up by Richard Hairyes are Jake Cooper, Jacob Gratton, Jake Hull and Jerome Greaves.

All are now very much a part of the first team ‘group’ and not only operate under the watchful eye of Paul Warne and his first team staff at training throughout the week, but are treated as fellow professionals and equals by the senior players up at Roundwood, where the manager has bred an incredibly inclusive and supportive culture.

 

 

Millers fan and Academy scholar Will Jenkinson talks about his experiences in the club's youth setup

 

We ensure that the Rotherham United Academy is never treated as a separate entity to the first team.

We are confident that a nine-year-old joining the club for the first time from grassroots football receives the same level of care and attention as our club skipper Richard Wood, and we are very proud of the dedicated staff both full and part time who not only help these players on their footballing journeys, but also in their development as people.

 

 

We spoke to a number of Rotherham United Academy players during Youth Development Week. First up, was U18s goalkeeper Nathaniel Ford

 

This is a philosophy set right at the top of the club, by the first team manager, which runs seamlessly throughout the age groups thanks to a coherent and meticulous approach which is employed by everyone who wears the Rotherham United badge.

We consider ourselves lucky to have a man who understands both the senior and youth setups with a ‘foot in both camps’ in our First Team/Development Coach Matt Hamshaw.

Matt spent many years as a coach in the club’s Academy setup himself before joining Warne and co. in his current role, which was created with the purpose of bridging the gap between youth and senior level.

“It is all about providing a pathway and a route to the first team,” he told www.themillers.co.uk.

“Some teams will pile their under 23s with lads who will never play and we don’t want to do that, we want to give players the opportunity to see a pathway in front of them and let them see that it is achievable.

“I certainly think from an Academy point of view that we’ve made fantastic progress and the players coming through are improving year on year.

“We’re fully committed to the programme and we want to get players through.

"I fully hope that if you’re a Rotherham fan, a parent or a young player seeing this interview, that you know that there is an opportunity to make it through to the first team.”

“We want the lad at Maltby, the lad at Rawmarsh or anywhere else in the town to have an opportunity to play for Rotherham United."

Matt Hamshaw, First Team/Development Coach

“John Breckin tried signing me before I went elsewhere and he always said ‘I have no issue with lads making a different decision, aslong as we were an option for them.’ It is important that we keep an eye out for talent across the region and I think we do that.”

Of course, Hamshaw, who ‘made it’ as a professional himself has seen many players not as fortunate during both his playing and coaching career and whilst he recognises that not everyone can fulfil that childhood dream, he insists that as an Academy the level of care goes far beyond those reaches anyway.

“It doesn’t work out for everybody, of course. Some of our biggest successes have been lads who haven’t made the team."

Matt Hamshaw, First Team/Development Coach

“Ross Dickinson went across and got a scholarship in America for example. That is as just as big of a success for me as Ben Wiles.

“Being part of an Academy gives you opportunities to go to universities, colleges, to go and play in lower league football and work your way back up.

“Just because you might not make it at 18, doesn’t mean you can’t go on to make it and have a career.

“In football, we all have an opinion and we can’t always get it right. If there was a local lad who we’d deemed not good enough and they’d made it, we’d be the first to shake their hand and say well done.”

 

 

#RaisedInTheEFL


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