Shrewsbury Town set to decide on talented teens

Shrewsbury Town are set for decisions on the futures of an exciting crop of second-year scholars – with the youngsters making waves in senior training.

Nigel Aris of Shrewsbury Town. (AMA)
Nigel Aris of Shrewsbury Town. (AMA)

It is understood there is a quiet determination to change the narrative of recent years and bring more players through the Salop academy system to become first-team prospects.

Former academy boss Dave Longwell, now first-team coach, has built up an appetite for Shrewsbury to recruit and produce young talent, as well as develop a clear plan as to how the club can help players into the first-team environment.

Academy coaches and first-team staff face decisions in the coming weeks as to whether to offer second-year scholars their first professional contracts. The teenagers will otherwise be released.

There is an excitement around the current group, some of whom have been rewarded for catching the eye at under-18 level by training with the senior squad at Sundorne Castle.

Longwell said: “With any young player you need opportunity and if you don’t give them opportunity there’s no point.

“It helps training (to have them in), and it gives them a chance to come in and challenge themselves and try to get a little bit closer.

“A lot of the boys have had opportunities because they deserve it and are working hard in the under-18s. I do think a few of them have done extremely well. They need that exposure to try to get better, they’ve got the chances.”

Town have not brought homegrown talents through to play regular first-team football since Connor Goldson and Ryan Woods, who moved on to the Championship for big-money deals. Ryan Barnett and Ryan Sears have progressed, but have been unable to lock down a regular place.

It was a big week for the Town academy as highly-rated striker Charlie Caton was on the bench in Tuesday’s win at Burton. He was joined by goalkeeper Jaden Bevan.

Left-footed Caton has played for Wales at youth levels and joined Salop from Wrexham, aged 16.

Powerful and skilful central midfielder Lewis Duberry is away on senior international duty with Caribbean island Montserrat.

Under-18s captain Nigel Aris, an attack-minded winger, is another who is well thought of, as is blistering striker Liam Thomas, a cool finisher, 18, formerly of Derby, who has been prolific at junior levels. Duberry and Aris, both 18, hail from east London and had early football educations at QPR and Watford, respectively. Striker Thomas is originally from south London.

The talented crop of attackers joined Salop from links the club have forged with junior football and professional academies in that region.

Closer to home, giant striker Tom Bloxham, who is from Oswestry, was handed his senior debut aged just 16 by former boss Sam Ricketts at the start of the season. Welsh youngster Louis Lloyd also enjoyed a Trophy cameo.

Town assistant Aaron Wilbraham has watched the under-18s on a couple of occasions.

Longwell added: “Charlie has done well, he had an injury knock-back for a couple of months, but has been developing well.

“All the coaches, and the head of recruitment, will be talking about it because we want to get these decisions right.

“It’s harder here because you’re going from the under-18s to the first team and there’s no under-23s team, we will start to make the decisions in the next couple of weeks.”

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