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Burnley went into 2018 in third place in the U18 Professional Development League, behind Bolton Wanderers and Huddersfield Town, and we will leave the year in fourth place with all of Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Leeds United above us.

The year started with a home defeat against Plymouth in the FA Youth Cup and it ended the same way with Oxford knocking us out of this year’s competition on penalties, but between those two results we have had a very steady year in the league with 15 wins from our 31 games.

1718 burnley michael fowler 00 500x500We ended last season in fifth place and some way behind eventual winners Leeds who had a terrific second half to their season. and, as is always the case, the team changed significantly as we prepared for the 2018/19 season. Some of the players from the previous season were released while others moved up to the under-23s with a long list of new recruits joining the club as first year scholars.

Players such as Jordan Barnett, Craig Ellison, Tristan Jumeau, Lewis King and Sam Layton were all released at the end of 2017/18 and those moving up to the under-23s and no longer available at under-18 level were such as James Clarke and Jordan Cropper, not forgetting Dwight McNeil and Oliver Younger who, although available, had spent most of the season at the higher level.

As that season came to an end, Michael Fowler (pictured) returned from a knee injury that had required surgery, and he ended the season with five goals in two games. He carried that on into the new season with five in the first four games but he then became part of a new policy that has seen many of the second year scholars move out to local non-league clubs on loan. Fowler, as an example, went to Padiham and then Radcliffe Borough but the likes of Will Harris, Ethan Kershaw, Dylon Meredith, Richard Taylor, Bobby Thomas and Kian Yari have all spent time away.

Danny Cadamarteri, who was the under-18 coach at the time, said it was the new policy to get these young players experience in adult football, but he didn’t stay around too much longer as the younger players, many from the under-16s, were given their opportunity. He’d been missing for some games and on one math day even confirmed he was watching one of his sons play while our under-18s were in action. In early October, in a very brief statement, the club confirmed that he’d already left to pursue other coaching opportunities. Up the Clarets understand that it wasn’t Cadamarteri’s decision to leave.

It’s left us without a lead coach for the last three months. John Townson has stood in but more recently the club confirmed that ex-Claret Tony Philliskirk, who had been with Oldham for twenty years, was returning to the club to take charge. His first game in charge will be at home against Sheffield Wednesday this Saturday.

It’s been a very enjoyable year watching the team. I’ve had my usual Gawthorpe drenchings and I’ve seen some very good games with the home win against Ipswich back in September probably as good as any.

I recall a few years ago when John Cofie made his youth team bow. I was at Leeds for a first team game and missed it, but I was certainly there six weeks ago today when a young 15-year-old by the name of Lewis Richardson got his first start and went on to score five times in a 6-1 win against Crewe. Who knows? We might still be talking about that in years to come when Lewis is scoring at first team level. That’s the hope as it is for everyone of those players. Sometimes we don’t know what’s going to happen. Back in around 2005 I saw a young lad come on as a substitute for his debut. He was called Jay Rodriguez and he went on to play for England.

Let’s hope we can produce some good players, at least, for our first team in the future and Up the Clarets would like to wish Tony Philliskirk and his players the very best in 2019 and beyond.

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