John Askey keen for others to follow Lifumpa Mwandwe's lead at Shrewsbury Town
Shrewsbury chief John Askey insists the professional contract handed to academy starlet Lifumpa Mwandwe highlights the pathway between youth football and the first team.
The pacy forward, 17, signed his first pro deal – which runs until summer 2020 – earlier this week after netting a first senior goal and continuing to catch the eye at under-18s level.
Mwandwe smashed in five goals as Eric Ramsay’s academy side thumped Doncaster 6-1. That goal-haul followed his strike from the bench for the first-team in last week’s Central Reserve Cup win over Bristol Rovers.
The striker, who was born in London but is of Zimbabwe descent, was a regular scorer for Town’s under-16s before finishing last season with 20 goals at under-18s level.
And Askey believe it is important to show talented young players there is an opportunity to be taken at Shrewsbury.
He said: “I think it’s important for the club that anybody who shows the promise he shows that they’re encouraged and there is a pathway into the first team.
“Obviously, over the few years, that has been shown.
“We need to encourage as many local lads, lads from around the area, to come and sign for Shrewsbury before they sign for a bigger club.
“They’re going to get more of a chance at clubs like this, first-team football, than they are at one or two of the bigger clubs.
“The more lads we can get into the first team, the more better lads will start to come.”
The likes of Ryan Woods, Connor Goldson and Jon Taylor all rose through the Salop academy before starring for the first-team and enjoying prominent careers at a higher level.
England goalkeeper Joe Hart and former Wales international Dave Edwards are other examples of former Shrewsbury youth teamers progressing.
Mwandwe made his first-team debut as a 16-year-old during last season’s Checkatrade Trophy campaign.
Fellow academy graduates Ryan Barnett and Ryan Sears have been handed chances in the Town first-team squad this season.
Both came from the bench during Tuesday’s 6-0 hammering of Tranmere Rovers.
Askey added: “The reason why they’re on the bench is because they’re good players. Again, when they went on, we saw that.“It’s good for them. They’re integrated with the first-team players. “They’ve done really well in training and I’m sure they’ll end up being really good players for Shrewsbury Town.”
Creative attacker Barnett’s deal runs until 2019 with the option of a further year, while Sears, midfielder George Hughes, defender Christos Shelis and goalkeeper Cameron Gregory are all academy graduates currently with Askey’s first-team squad.