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Shrewsbury youth set up 'light years' ahead of where it was

David Longwell believes Shrewsbury Town's youth set-up is 'lightyears' ahead of where it was in recent years.

Steve Cotterill the head coach / manager of Shrewsbury Town, Aaron Wilbraham the assistant head coach / manager of Shrewsbury Town and David Longwell coach (AMA)
Steve Cotterill the head coach / manager of Shrewsbury Town, Aaron Wilbraham the assistant head coach / manager of Shrewsbury Town and David Longwell coach (AMA)

Scottish coach Longwell, who remains academy director at Shrews despite joining Steve Cotterill's staff as first-team coach, has been at Shrewsbury almost three-and-a-half years.

He replaced Eric Ramsay as academy manager in early 2019 after Ramsay moved on to Sam Ricketts' first-ream staff and remained strictly in an academy role until Ricketts lost his job in November 2020.

"It's only been three years but we've come lightyears ahead on where we were before," said Longwell, who worked across the pond at New York Red Bulls before Salop.

"Now the academy is so strong. A lot of our clubs can compete with any clubs, whatever category they are, that's something that would never happen before.

"And the most important thing is, at the top end of it, we've now got Tom (Bloxham) who is a regular first team player, the positive thing is at least there's a pathway.

"We've obviously signed Jaden (Bevan), signed Charlie (Caton), signed Josh Barlow, is an opportunity to show there's a link there from the academy to first team.

"That link comes from our community programme, also from Telford, for our supporters all it's designed to do is bring better players through, that's it, better players to help the first team, that is the bottom line.

"Obviously not every player will make it but we genuinely believe what we're doing is making players better."

Town have also signed up promising 17-year-old goalkeeper Xander Parke to a one-year first professional deal.

While the first-team squad are on their summer break and do not return until June 27, the academy programme runs at all ages – with football festivals aimed at providing action and spotting talent.

So we'd arrange a variety of games, a little under-12s tournament, a festival, an under-14s one, an under-15s one.

"Number one it's to make sure our kids are getting to play football, but also develop links with local clubs, invite them to the club to give them a chance to play and be involved against Shrewsbury," Longwell said.

"There might be a chance then some players can progress into our academy.

"The kids go back to school and the programme will run to the end of June. I'm a big believer in the weather's good, I want the kids to play football. Just because the first team shuts down, it doesn't mean the academy shuts down.

"The guys are in working hard. We play Crewe at the weekend and next week they'll be training and other games arranged for variety of reasons."

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