The 2022/23 season proved to be another positive one for Welling United’s academy scholarship programme.
The Wings’ U19s finished third in the National League Youth Alliance last term, a marked improvement on the previous year, while a number of youngsters continued to progress towards the first-team with senior opportunities handed to a number of academy graduates.
Reflecting on the successes of the season, Scholarship Academy Manager Tom McNamee said it was pleasing to see the scholarship programme continuing to progress and bare fruit, both on the pitch and off the pitch in terms of academic successes.
“It’s been a really good year for us,” he explained.
“In terms of the overall competitiveness of the U19s, we finished third in the National League Youth Alliance which is our best performance for a good few years, we just got pipped out by Dover, who won it, and Dartford in second.
“We’re moving in the right direction. We were sixth the year before, so it shows that progression and the target next year will be to challenge for the league with the quality that we’ve got and we’ve recruited over the last six months.”
“We’ve got boys going out to the USA again, which is really good,” McNamee continued.
“Callum Ellington has gone out to Texas on a full scholarship which is brilliant and we’re really pleased for him.
“We’ve got a number of scholars moving on to university within the UK as well, so we’re really pleased to be able to provide different avenues of opportunities.
“Closer to home, Kieran King played men’s football with Phoenix Sports, they got promoted and he was a part of that which was another great achievement for him and for us to be able to put players out there and being part of successful campaigns, so that was another positive mark.”
“Overall, myself, Barry [Jeffreys], Garry [Fiore] and Brett [Smith] feel it’s been another positive year for the scholarship programme and we’re looking at different ways to kick on next year from a football perspective, as well as giving them a route into the next stage of their lives after they finish with us.
“We want to keep giving those avenues to opportunities whether it’s university abroad, in the UK or into men’s first-team football.”
Meanwhile, the 2022/23 season was a particularly good year for a number of academy youngsters who were given the opportunity to shine for the first team, initially in both London and Kent Senior Cup competitions, before some were part of match day squads in the league.
“We’re creating that pathway through to the first team and we’ve had a few this year who were given opportunities so there’s some real progression there and it’s becoming more than just one a year,” said McNamee.
“David Kamara, Ollie Godziemski, Aidan Ward, Namory Kane, Sam Bamford, Jack Church, Reelwan Lugboso are all players who have come through the scholarship programme and had first-team opportunities, as well as Cameron Andrews who, obviously, had already made that step up.
“We want to showcase those opportunities and, hopefully, over time, we’ll have more frequent players in the first-team set-up. That’s the target for us. We have to keep pushing the envelope and showing that we have players that just need the chance to show that they can step up and do it in the National League South.”
Early-bird season tickets for the 2023/24 campaign are now on sale with prices frozen until June 12th ahead of the new season as the club celebrates its 60th anniversary.