Scot Longwell had been with Steve Cotterill’s first-team squad before Shrewsbury’s Covid-19 shutdown as he was assisting the handover between Sam Ricketts and the new Town chief.
But Longwell’s primary role is overseeing the club’s academy in a bid to promote talent from within, a department that remains crucial to the club.
Town’s academy operates between under-7s and under-18s. The club does not have a reserve or under-23s squad like other clubs in the EFL, and Longwell feels that regular loan move can help realise a youngster’s potential – as it did with the England captain.
“We need to work with the loan system, clubs have under-23s and there’s positives and negatives with that,” Longwell said. “The positives are you can keep kids for a little bit longer but the negatives are they can sometimes get lost.
“I think if the players are good enough then us as a football club have to find ways of keeping them round here and then finding them a club on loan.
“Look at how many loan clubs Harry Kane had, he’s England’s best striker and the amount of loan clubs he had is unbelievable.
“We’ve got to look at something similar with the young players we’ve got. To go out on loan, get experience until such time they are ready to get into the first team.
“You’ll get some that might come early, and then they go away, and some need to go and play men’s football.”
Connor Goldson and Ryan Woods were the last two Town academy graduates to make a lasting impact on the Town first-team squad. They both departed in 2015 having risen through the ranks and left for considerable fees – and subsequent sell-on figures. In more recent years Ryan Barnett and Ryan Sears have bridged the gap, both signing professional deals, but are yet to establish themselves as first-team regulars.
Cotterill’s new assistant manager Aaron Wilbraham went to watch an under-18s fixture in early December, shortly after his appointment at Montgomery Waters Meadow. Longwell said he is keen to ensure that ‘connection’ is there.
Longwell, who joined the club in early 2019 to replace Eric Ramsay, explained that – in non-lockdown times – the club’s recruitment drive at academy level is exhaustive and non-stop.
He said: “Gary Wharton, who is head of recruitment and just came back to the club (from Stoke) when I came in, has been fantastic for me. He works so hard and is everywhere.”