The future of any football club lays in many different areas. There’s financial stability of course, as well as growing fan base.
There’s also a need for the young players attracted to the youth set up to break through and either impact the team or move on for a big fee.
During our time in the National League we struggled to keep the academy afloat, with Roger Bates and his team working tirelessly to raise enough funds to ensure there was a youth system to speak of. The Stacey West helped support where we could are were proud to have done so.
Now we’re back in the Football League things have changed significantly, the funding has flowed back into the set up and of course, young Ellis Chapman has earned a professional contract, blazing a trail for others to follow.
I caught up with Ellis for my programme piece this week and he told me that there’s plenty of quality in the Under 18 team, led for the first time by Tom Shaw.
“There’s a lot of quality in our Under 18 set up at the moment, definitely. I’ve got to give credit to all the lads, they’ve done so well. The same goes for Tom Shaw, he’s the new manager who came in and he’s done really well getting the lads together and building the spirit that we should have.”
Shaw is no stranger to the game having emerged from the youth ranks himself at Nottingham Forest and enjoyed a varied playing career with the likes of Rushden and Diamonds and Chester. He’s also been the Head of Football at Nottingham Trent University, where he oversaw five men’s football teams, four women’s football teams and seven futsal teams.
That experience is bringing some of the quality footballers through, with Ellis telling me a couple have trained with the first team and showed great potential.
“We’ve got players like Jordan (Adebayo-Smith) and Elliott (Sartorious) who are progressing incredibly well. They’ve been training with the first team and it’s been great for them making that transition.”
You can read more in this weekend’s match day programme, where Ellis tells me about his first FA Cup memory (which will make you feel old) as well as discussing the possibility of becoming the first player to represent the Imps in the third round of both the FA Cup and the FA Youth Cup in a single season.