An excellent 2013-14 for Cardiff City's Academy
Academy Football is about aiming to make football enjoyable, challenging and rewarding. The tireless efforts of the coaching staff at Cardiff City’s Academy has paid dividends throughout the 2013/14 season with three Academy players given Premier League game time.
The Cardiff City journey can begin for some players at an incredibly early age. Children as young as six who show potential can be recruited to begin the Academy journey.
When signing for a professional club, most children dream of progressing through to play for their team and country – for Declan John this circle of triumph took ten years to come to fruition as he made his debut in the Barclays Premier League and claimed a senior cap for Wales all in the space of a few months.
The young full back went on to make 20 appearances in the top flight for Cardiff this term as a first year professional, a stat rewarded by being named the Cardiff City Supporters Club Young Player of the Year.
He was joined in completing the full ten year circle by young centre half Thomas James who was rewarded for an incredible season with the under-18 and under-21 squads by making his first team debut in the final moments of City’s last match against Chelsea. Rhys Healey also made his first team debut against the Blues, a just reward for the young striker’s progress since arriving at the club as an eighteen year old from Connah’s Quay. Healey scored fifteen goals in Under-21 football for Cardiff City in the 2013/14 season.
As the season draws to a close, Cardiff City’s Academy can look back on the 2013/14 season with fond memories of triumphs on a national and international scale.
Kevin Cooper’s Development side reached the U-21 Professional Development League Two play-offs for a second consecutive year, this year lifting the Southern section title after leading the way for the majority of the campaign. A true testament to the hard work and dedication put in by staff and homegrown players alike as the Development Squad continues to ease the gap between first team and Academy football.
The Under-18 side currently ran by Kevin Nicholson defeated Category One outfit Blackburn Rovers 1-0 in the FA Youth Cup back in December 2013, with the match’s only goal scored by Yora Enzam. The City Scholars then defeated a tenacious Oxford United in the next round 3-2 with Macauley Southam, Abdi Noor and Tom Burridge hitting the back of the net before eventual winners Chelsea proved one step too far.
It was a fantastic year nonetheless for City's Under-18s who went on to finish third in U-18 Professional Development League Two South, and also reached the semi-finals of the FAW Youth Cup.
As the season drew to a close, Kevin Nicholson's side travelled abroad for a post season training camp in Villamoura, Portugal. The Leonardo Da Vinci fund, offered by the Welsh Football Trust, gave City’s under-18 team the opportunity of playing against prestigious European opposition. City’s Under-18 side drawing 1-1 against local team Portimonense S.C in the first week before finishing their draw with a highly respectable 1-1 draw with UEFA Youth League runners-up S.L. Benfica.
City’s Under-16 side visited Warwick University in October 2013 for the U-16 Premier League International Festival, the only Category Two side at the tournament and faced off against the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Ajax. Chelsea eventually defeated Real Madrid in the final of the U-16 tournament with the young City stars working extremely hard amongst their esteemed opponents.
Success has continued down the Academy with the Under-13 and Under-15 sides both qualifying for Premier League National Finals of their age groups.
On Wednesday 16th April, Cardiff’s Under-11 side headed to Warwick to play Premier League Regional Qualifiers against Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City with the victors earning a place in the U-11 International Festival. The Under-11s showcased astonishing talent for such a young team, finishing top of their group, remaining unbeaten throughout and conceding only one goal in the process to earn the right to take on the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Ajax and a number of other high profile clubs in the International spectacle that took place on Saturday 31st May & Sunday 1st June 2014.
City’s U-11 side continued their spectacular season when visiting Poland for the Akademia Pilkorska Szydlowiec International Football Tournament between May 22nd and May 27th 2014. Despite facing some tough opposition in Polonia Warsaw, FC Volyn Lutsk and Panathinaikos Soccer Schools as well as a number of other sides, the Cardiff City FC squad emerged victorious, returning to South Wales with the trophy. Fantastic preparation for Mark Neville’s side ahead of the weekend’s Premier League International Festival.
The International exploits of City’s Academy continues in June as the Cardiff City Advanced Squad (a combination of the U-12, U-13, U-14 squads) head to Valencia to test their abilities against the likes of Inter Milan, Spartak Moscow, Real Betis and Villarreal. Both George Ratcliffe and Rabbi Matondo of the Advanced Squad were recently offered, and accepted scholarship offers from the club which will see them stay at Cardiff City until at least the age of 18. Both have showcased outstanding talents for such young players with the club moving swiftly to secure the long term future of their most talented stars.
The Academy recruitment programme continues to thrive with a new Advanced Development Centre opening in Bristol back in February. This opening of yet another pathway to Academy football has already seen two players move from the centre to register with the Academy, a marvellous achievement for a development centre in its opening months. The club has also established a healthy link and working relationship with the Dragon Advanced Development Centre of Oswestry.
A truly outstanding season for all involved in the development of football at Cardiff City Football Club’s Academy.