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Seven Young Guns Set To Sign

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Bristol Rovers have offered Pro contract to seven young footballers, mainly from Filton College.

Filton College students Alex Kite, Charlie Reece, Tom Godsell, Ryan Paddock, Matt Groves and Adam Mahdi will be joined by Centre of Excellence youngster Charlie Clough, when training for the 2007/08 campaign begins in earnest.

Charle Clough is the youngest of the batch at just 16 years of age. Lennie Lawrence has been watching the young lads closely during the season.

‘I’ve watched them play for the under 18s, in the FA Youth Cup and,latterly, in the reserves,’ Lennie told ‘A few of them have been a little bit unfortunate with injuries, and they have all have missed time for one reason or another, but we think they have enough potential to warrant being given a professional contract and hopefully they can progress in the same way as one or two of the lads who came in last year.

‘It will be different for them, being full time pros, as opposed to being in the education system, but they all have something.’

The six Filton College scholars will find they have to make up for lost time according to Lennie. ‘They are coming in at 18, so they have to make very good progress in the next year,’ he said, ‘However they have shown enough, from what we’ve seen of them, to warrant being given a pro contract.

‘The set up here is slightly different here than at most clubs. Usually, on leaving school, lads will go to an academy or a centre of excellence and will be at the club all of the time apart from one, or one and a half days each week, when they will go to college.

‘The system here means that they are in college on a full-time basis and we might have them up to train with us once a fortnight, if we are lucky, so there’s a slightly different emphasis. It works well enough though, and the progress made by Sean Rigg for example is testament to that.

‘The point to bear in mind is that as a result of the boys coming to us at 18, instead of 16, is that they have to make sustained, significant, progress over the next 12 months because by the time the year ends they will be 19.

‘No disrespect to anyone but, at this level, you have to be in and around the first team at that age or you will miss out, whereas if you come into the club at 16, on a full-time basis, you have two or three years to make an impression.

‘That said, this particular group have had a good grounding at the college. So if they can kick on, there’s no reason why they can’t become players at Bristol Rovers and make careers out of the game, but they do need to hit the ground running.’

The youngsters will make up what will essentially be a young ‘shadow squad’.
‘We want a first team squad of 17 or so players, plus another 12 who are under the age of 21,’ said Lennie, ‘Naturally, there will be an overlap in some cases, as there is with Chris Lines at the moment.

‘We’ve not been in the situation before where we have been able to have two such distinct groups, but they will be in place when we report back for training in July. ‘We’ve signed Josh Klein-Davies, from Bristol City, as well and we have one or two others in the same age range that we are going to look at then. Hopefully, and with a little bit of luck, we’ll get some players out of that group.’

There are many who would say it’s about time that more emphasis was made on developing home grown talents, and it’s a view shared by Lennie. ‘No disrespect to some managers, but they come in and see the job as winning games with the first team, so they recruit senior or experienced players and that’s it,’ he said.

‘We are different, and quite frankly, I think it’s a joke that a club this size in a city such as Bristol has not had any players through he ranks for five years or maybe even longer. ‘We are setting about addressing that situation. Chris Lines has broken through now and Sean Rigg has come back on the scene with a bang after recovering from a very serious injury.

‘I wouldn’t say they are players yet, because you have to play 50 games before you can call yourself a player, but they have shown great progress and are on the verge of establishing themselves.’ ‘Hopefully we can do that with a few more, but you have to encourage them. They have to be able to play in the reserves, they have to be in a full-time environment, they have to be with the first team, and they have to learn how to be a professional footballer.

‘Most of all they should realise that, if they are good enough, they will be given a chance. Our squad is younger now than it’s been for a while and whilst you do have to get results, in the long-term interest of the club that’s a good thing we’ve managed to get the balance about right.’

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