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L-R: Connor King, Olatunde Bayode, Mark Howarth, Tinashe Chakwana, Tommy Wood

L-R: Connor King, Olatunde Bayode, Mark Howarth, Tinashe Chakwana, Tommy Wood

Five of the second year scholars in Burnley’s current youth team have been retained by the club after impressing during this current season under new coach Michael Duff.

The five are goalkeeper Connor King, who has captained the side this year, midfielders Mark Howarth and Olatunde Bayode, and forwards Tinashe Chakwana and Tommy Wood. To add to that, left back Ali Koiki, who came in as a young professional has been given a further year.

It’s always good and bad news at this time of the year and sadly we will be losing three of our second year scholars with right-back Billy Grogan having been released alongside midfielders Miles Fenton and Tyler Shrimpton. Also leaving from the youth team is striker RJ Pingling who came in on a professional deal similar to Koiki.

Goalkeeper Tony Aghayere, who has spent much of his time out on loan with Colne, got a further year in 2016 but has now been released while striker Khius Metz, has been given a further six months deal after missing virtually the whole of this season with an injury initially sustained on his Altrincham debut last August. Goalkeeper Conor Mitchell has seen his deal extended by a further year.

Academy manager Jon Pepper said: “The scholars have really kicked on this year, the first and second years, which is reflected in their recent form going up the league, compared with where they finished last year.

“It would be nice to get the under-23s a core nucleus of players who have been with the club for a number of years, rather than at the moment where the under-23s is very much a mixed group that have been introduced into the club the last year or two.

“It would be good to have a group of players who have been with us for a while and then a few additions to make up that squad so they really have an affiliation with the club and they understand what we are all about, the culture, the work ethic etc.

“It’s very difficult if you bring a whole new group of players in from all different environments and backgrounds to instil in them what exactly we need and what we want. It would be nice to have a core group of seven or eight players who have come through the academy in that group next and just add on from outside and look to increase that over the years.”

Pepper also explained why the second year scholars have been given a third scholarship year rather than offer them one year professional deals which means they can join non-league clubs on work experience.

He said: “It gives us a bit more flexibility with the players in lads need game time and that experience of playing men’s football. It’s very similar in terms of salaries and in terms of status and they don’t get treated any differently.”

It’s always a mixed day, certainly for those of us who take the opportunity to watch the youth team. Up the Clarets would very much like to congratulate those who have been given a further year while wishing the very best to Billy Grogan, Miles Fenton, Tyler Shrimpton, RJ Pingling and Tony Aghayere.

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