The Imps have handed a professional contract to Elicha Ahui, the second academy player to be given a contract in a matter of days.
He is another of the so-called ‘Shadow Scholars’, players not offered a scholarship by their clubs at the age of 16, who come to City to get football, but further education.
“The course is a programme of college and sport so you get a good education alongside the sport, it has been great for me,” he told the club’s official site after penning his deal yesterday. “By doing well on the football side it opened up opportunities to train and play with the scholars, and luckily I have been able to train with the first-team, play in the Central League Cup and go on loan to Gainsborough Trinity. It was a very different type of football, I had to get used to the physicality and pace of the game. It’s an amazing moment to have signed and I’m now ready to put in the hard work for the next step.”
There’s a clip below of him playing for the Holy Blues, and I think it’s interesting that both him and Morgan Worsfold-Gregghave spent time with Gainsborough. Many fans assumed youngsters with pro contracts would be playing at the Northolme this season, but it’s actually been talented young players who have slipped under the radar in terms of fan knowledge. Let’s be honest, we’d all heard of Freddie Draper, Hayden Cann and Sean Roughan before they penned their deals, but the latest duo had perhaps passed some of us by. Ahui has played 15 times for Tom Shaw’s side, with Worsfold-Gregg turning out five times.
There’s a clip here of Ahui scoring for Gainsborough in February, and it’s well worth a watch, not least because of Jovon Makama’s skills in helping start the move. He’s a player who has certainly impressed in his spell with Gainsborough.
As for Ahui, he was released by Forest at 16, and is seen as a long-term project, according to the club’s director of football Jez George: “This is an amazing story and shows what can be achieved with a top mentality. Elicha is an example to all players that if you strive to be the best you can every day in training, you can be the author of your own story rather than having that defined by someone else. Elicha was released by Nottingham Forest at 16 years old, wasn’t offered a scholarship by any professional club but less than two years after joining our shadow scholar programme is training with our first team and signing a professional contract.
“Great credit to Richard Belcher (Shadow Scholar Head Coach) and all our academy staff, but mostly to Elicha himself. He is a player with great potential and shows the value of the Shadow Scholar programme in providing boys with more time to develop whilst still under the umbrella of Lincoln City. Elicha is a late physical developer, who is a long-term project, has the attributes to play in a multitude of positions and fully deserves this opportunity.”
There is a bit of a 2008/09 feel about the current influx of young players, when Peter Jackson, to his credit, began flooding young players such as Gary King, Martin Pembleton, Owain Warlow and others. Hopefully, e can see one or two of these young players around the first-team squad, if only for EFL Trophy games and as late subs in the early part of next season.