Young guns get pro contracts
19th April 2013
Swansea City have offered new one-year deals to young pros Kurtis March, James Loveridge and Henry Jones, plus first professional contracts to four of the club's scholars.
March (19), Loveridge (18) and Jones (19), all local products, signed for the club last summer after coming through the Youth ranks and have figured regularly for the club's Under-21 Development squad this season.
Goalkeeper Oliver Davies (Neath), Liam Shephard (Pentre), Sam Evans (Fforestfach) and Welsh qualified Alex Bray (Wiltshire) have also been offered their first one-year professional contracts at the Liberty Stadium after impressing in the Youth set-up this season.
The offers come on the back of a two-year deal signed by 18-year-old Josh Sheehan (Pembrey) in November, and means five out of seven of the club's second-year apprentices will get the chance to impress at senior level next season.
"For five of our current scholars to be offered pro contracts is a major boost for the Academy set-up,'' declared Tony Pennock, the club's Academy Manager. "It's always nice when you see the youngsters you've been working so hard with progress to professional status.
"But they know the hard work is only just beginning because they have to start fighting for another pro contract now.''
The restructuring of the club's Academy set-up has seen Kristian O'Leary's Under-21 (Reserves) squad work more closely with the Youth department. It has also meant a lot of the Under-18s squad have made the step up to play regularly for the Under-21s.
"There's little doubt we've been the youngest squad competing in the Under-21 league this season,'' added Pennock. "A lot of the teams we play use their allowed three or four (goalkeeper) over-age players against us, including experienced pros.
"But for us it's not about results. Yes it's nice to win, but our main focus is on development; developing players to play in the right way for a future in the first team. That's the only team that needs to win at this club - the first team.
"It was hard at the start of the season because we didn't have a big squad and we were working with a lot of young players. The results and performances weren't always there, but I think now everyone can see all that early-season development paying off because the boys have done really well over the last few weeks.
"We've won three of our last four games, but more importantly the performances throughout the squad have been a lot better. That has come by playing against better, more experienced players all season.''
The influx of four more young pros into the Under-21 set-up, plus the new deals for March, Loveridge and Jones, will also give O'Leary a bigger squad to work with on match days and the training ground on a daily basis.
"From next season players will be competing in their own right for a place in the Under-21s. That hasn't been the case this season because the squad has been so small, especially when players are injured or out on loan,'' added Pennock.
"They must look to do well enough in the Under-21s to force their way into Michael Laudrup's first-team plans. That's always got to be the aim of every player here.''