Wirral's footballing Rovers; Exclusive report: Youngsters from Peninsula snapped up by Blackburn's youth Academy to train as stars of future.
Byline: CHRIS WRIGHT Chris Wright may refer to:
IN JUST two years Jonathan Walters Jonathan Walters (known as Jon; born 20 September 1983 in Birkenhead) is a professional footballer who currently plays as a striker for Ipswich Town F.C.
Jonathan started his career at Blackburn Rovers scoring plenty of goals for their youth team before moving to Bolton has gone from the Eastham Junior League to the verge of the FA Barclaycard Premiership.
The Birkenhead youngster was playing for Shaftesbury under-16s when he was spotted by Blackburn Rovers' coordinater for Wirral and Wales Wales, Welsh Cymru, western peninsula and political division (principality) of Great Britain (1991 pop. 2,798,200), 8,016 sq mi (20,761 sq km), west of England; politically united with England since 1536. The capital is Cardiff. Mike O'Brien.
The 17-year-old striker is now part o the Lancashire club's reserve side after signing as a full-time professional in August.
Walters has made significant progress in the last 12 months and has already scored three goals in the FA Premier Reserve League The FA Premier Reserve League is the top reserve team league for the top English football teams in the Premier League. Most of England's major teams field reserve sides in this league. and 15 in all games.
Last season he bagged 36 goals for Blackburn under-17s side in the FA Premier Academy League The FA Premier Academy League is the top level of youth football in England. It is contested between the Academy sides of FA Premier League and Football League clubs. History
The league was founded as the FA Premier Youth League and was part of the club's youth side which reached the final of the FA Youth Cup, only to be beaten over two legs by Arsenal, who retained the trophy they had won 12 months previous.
And he is back in Youth Cup action next Tuesday, December 4, when Rovers take on Chelsea in the third round.
Walters is becoming an increasing rare phenomenon, in that he was not signed up to any of the local professional league clubs in the area, and therefore had not had the same coaching as many of the players he now plays with and against.
With the proliferation of Academies, centres of excellence and youth development programmes the battle to unearth the stars of the future is fierce.
There are seven Academies and 20 centres of excellence in the North West area within the oneand-a-half-hour catchment area catchment area or drainage basin, area drained by a stream or other body of water. The limits of a given catchment area are the heights of land—often called drainage divides, or watersheds—separating it from neighboring drainage from which, under FA rules, youngsters must live from the club they join.
So the best players can increasing pick and choose what clubs can provide them the best footballing education.
Blackburn's recruitment team is headed by Academy director Bobby Downes, who had a playing and coaching career spanning more than 25 years.
For the last four of them he has been first head of youth football and Academy director at Blackburn. He was director of youth football at Watford. So he has vast knowledge in nurturing the best youth talent.
Blackburn built their pounds 7million Academy just over two years ago at Brockhall and the facilities are some of the finest in the game. There is an indoor soccer
Downes is happy with the current players and set-up he has. He said: "Jonathan is probably one of the people clubs missed. It is unusual that he came so late into the system.
"But we are delighted with his progress. He scored 36 goals last season and he has continued that this year. He is doing well for us.
"As well as Jonathan we have Jay McEvilly from Cardinal Heenan school in Liverpool, we have Neil Danns Neil Alexander Danns (born November 23, 1982, in Liverpool, England) is an English footballer, currently playing for Premiership side Birmingham City. Playing Career , who we got from Liverpool and paid compensation for and Michael Taylor Michael Taylor may refer to:
"So Wirral and Merseyside are areas we look at as they come in our range. Obviously there are Liverpool, Everton and Tranmere looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. players there as well.
"Although we don't particularly target the area as such, we are always looking for players and hopefully there will be more to come in the future."
And it would seem Walters could be just the start of what Blackburn hope will be a production line of talent coming from the Wirral.
Mike O'Brien has been at Blackburn for three years after he had scouted for Everton and Tranmere. After a non-league career with Ellesmere Port Ellesmere Port, town and district (1991 pop. 78,800), Cheshire, W central England. Ellesmere Port, located on the Manchester Ship Canal near its junction with the Shropshire Union Canal and the entrance into the Mersey estuary, is the principal town of the district. and in the Welsh League, he took up coaching at 30 and has passed on his expertise to youngsters for 25 years, as well as scouting for new talent in 17 of those.
O'Brien first spotted Walters in the Eastham League and he is just one of several youngsters he has brought to Blackburn from the Wirral.
He said: "He was at Shaftesbury under-16s when I first decided he had something. I had been watching him for the previous two years but his physique physique /phy·sique/ (fi-zek´) the body organization, development, and structure.
The body considered with reference to its proportions, muscular development, and appearance. wasn't what it should be. But once he got to 16 you could see him developing.
"He was always quick. He played against Tranmere and scored three for Merseyside Schools, so I made the decision to bring him in and he scored two against Manchester United on the Saturday and we signed him on the Monday.
"If a player is a bit special you need to make a quick decision.
"And it paid off because the gaffer (Graeme Souness Graeme James Souness (IPA: ['suːnəs]) (born 6 May, 1953 in Edinburgh) is a Scottish former professional football player and manager. ) thinks a lot of him.
"But I'll never predict what he can do or if he is close to making the first team. All I will say is the lad is scoring goals for the reserves and if he continues to do that he's got a chance."
Already O'Brien has recruited several Wirral boys in all age groups.
In August Wirral youngster Dominic Holden beat one of Liverpool and England star Michael Owen's goalscoring record.
The Aberystwyth tournament is a prestigious event that attracts League clubs from all over the country, as well as Welsh and American sides from age groups from ten to 18-year-old.
The 11-year-old striker hit 24 goals for Blackburn's Academy side in the tournament beating Owen's 20-goal record from when the Liverpool forward was the same age as Holden.
O'Brien said: "He is an excellent striker. He has got a good attitude even at his age and he has the ability to be similar to Jonathan Walters if he can keep up his progress."
Two other youngsters from Greasby, Peter and Paul McGinley Paul McGinley (born December 16, 1966) is an Irish golfer who plays on the European Tour. He is most famous for holing the winning putt for the European team in the 2002 Ryder Cup. He currently resides in Sunningdale, England.
McGinley was born in Dublin. , have the rare distinction of being one of the few brothers to play at the same Academy.
Paul plays in the under-12s side at Rovers at casual marks; hence, at random; as, shooting at rovers s>. See def. 5
See also: Rover on the wide left of midfield, while Peter is in the under-11s in the centre of midfield.
SIGNED UP: Brothers Peter and Paul McGinley from Greasby with Blackburn scout Mike O'Brien HOT PROSPECT: Jonathan Walters signs for Blackburn, watched by Mike O'Brien YOUNG GUNS: Football prospects (front row, l to r) Anthony Gardener, Peter McGinley, Paul McGinley, Paul Byrne Paul Byrne, born in Dublin on 19 May 1986, is a footballer, currently playing with Eircom League side UCD.
University College Dublin A.F.C. (current squad)
DF Bermingham • MF C. and Jame McKennen, watched by (back row) Dave Sanderson, Jon Walters, coach Rob Upton, Wirral scouting coordinator Mike O'Brien and recruitment officer Martin Glove at the Blackburn Academy