Our Academy… Our Success

by Peter Scherer

It’s with a great deal of pride that Mickleover FC can look back over it’s past and current achievements with the Clubs own Academy.

Formed in 2014 initially, they were 2015,16 & 17 ESPFA Champions and with John McGrath becoming player manager, he signed former Rams and England Under 16,17 & 19 International Pablo Mills for the start of the 2026/17 season.

Initially as a player, Mills had also been coaching at Derby University and soon became McGrath’s right-hand man with the Academy.

One of the first successes for the new partnership was the development of versatile defender Morgan Williams. Having been released from the Nottingham Forest Juniors, he came to Mickleover in September 2016 and two years later he was snapped up by Coventry City.

He made his first team debut in 2018 against Arsenal Under 21’sin the EFL Cup and after five more appearances, he was loaned to Yeovil Town, before making his move permanent. He is now riding high as part of the Yeovil team topping the National League South.

In 20/21 they had won the ESPFA Midlands Championship which put them in a play-off with Runcorn Linnets and Chesham Utd for the National title, with all games played at the neutral Rushall Olympic ground.

Mickleover proved to be a class apart and destroyed the opposition, scoring eight goals in each game. Beating Runcorn 8-0 and Chesham 8-1.

A number of the players, despite their age, had managed to break into the first team squad, Bobby Battisson, Louis Pennington, Josh Satchwell, Will Robinson, Fin Barker, Ben Lewin, Kai Moore, George Atwal and Jake Edge-Lucas.

Current vice-captain, but on field captain during Ryan Wilson’s absence, Ethan Mann emerged in the same year, but a year younger. But he not only became a squad member, but has been a first choice centre back this season and much of last too.

We have always excelled ourselves in developing young talent and with a genuine clear pathway to the first team, plus the exceptional coaching of Pablo Mills and Andy Dales. May our list of Academy Graduates continue to grow.

said gaffer John McGrath. 

The list of success goes on, as Academy goalkeeping graduates Tom Smith and the late Fin Bowen both made one appearance each, along with Ben Horleston.

With former Sports star Andy Dales returning to the club, he joined Mills and McGrath as the Academy severed it’s connections with the ESPFA and are now a stand-alone.

As undefeated Champions of their Division in last years FA Youth Development League, with 11 wins and one draw, they played Southern Champions West Ham Foundation at Oxford City’s ground, winning 1-0 with a Mann header.

So far this season they have three wins from three, and also came through the FA Youth Cup Qualifying rounds, before going out to League One Northampton Town.

Following in Ethan Mann’s footsteps, Brandon Ferron, Fin Ryder, Sam Tomlinson, Zac Sandhu, Harry Atwal and Toby Smith are all now members of the first team squad and the door is open for the next generation to follow too.

The Academy has come a long way, a lot of hard work and time has gone into this process. Me, Macca and Dalesy decided to have a development team, which in my opinion rivals some of the best Academies around, and our aim is to produce players that can compete in our first team and also be sold on. Morgan Williams is the benchmark for what players can achieve.

said Mills.

But my best moment coaching the lads was definitely winning the ESPFA Regional and National Championships and losing only one game that season. We dominated the Nationals and a lot of other coaches were complimentary on how well organised and coached the lads were.

We not only want to produce good players, but we also want well disciplined young men, that can go out in the world with the tools needed to succeed

he concluded.


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