On Saturday, Momodou Touray became the sixth U18 Academy Player to make their first team debut this season. Add to that three international call-ups and it's been a good year for the Academy. In this Season Review, Will Pritchard takes us through some of the highlights.
Despite a tough year in the Youth Alliance for the Young Exiles, the academy has progressed massively, with two scholars signing professional deals at the club and three academy players representing Wales at U17 and U19 level respectively. We look back at some of the best moments of the 17/18 season for County’s academy in the final programme of the season.
Jay Foulston receiving a squad number and making his first-team debut
After impressing in pre-season friendlies against Barry Town United and Merthyr Town, Jay was given squad number 18 and started training with the first-team. When asked about the announcement, Jay described getting his squad number as "a great feeling, it’s a great opportunity and I've loved every minute of it so far.”
The defender continued his rise with the first-team and was handed his debut as a substitute in the 93rd minute against Southend United in the Carabao Cup. Jay became the third-youngest player to appear for County aged 16 and 255 days, with only Regan Poole and Steve Aizlewood making their debuts earlier than Foulston.
Lewis Collins and Modou Touray international call-up
First-year scholar Lewis Collins and second-year scholar Modou Touray were handed call-ups for Wales’ U17 and U19 sides respectively in the month of November. Modou earned the call-up after several good performances at Merthyr Town during his loan spell and previously impressed for the U19s in a friendly against Switzerland in a 4-3, a game which the forward scored in. Modou scored against Slovakia in a 2-1 defeat.
Lewis Collins was due to travel to Scotland with the U17s in September, but injury meant the versatile attacker had to withdraw from the squad. Collins was called up to Wales’ UEFA U17 European Championships qualifiers and played in the games against Holland and Hungary. Despite not scoring, he impressed with his performances throughout.
Check-A-Trade Trophy match
Injuries to Michael Flynn’s squad meant that he gave five academy players a place in the matchday squad against Cheltenham Town in the Checkatrade Trophy. Lewis Collins, Evan Press, Jay Foulston and Tom Hillman all started the game, with Owen Taylor coming off the bench to make his debut in the second-half.
Despite a 2-1 loss, all the academy players put in good displays and earned invaluable experience with the first-team. Manager Michael Flynn was complimentary of the Young Exiles’ performances and said: “I thought it was a brilliant performance from a team where I gave four people their debuts from the youth team.
“The boys were brilliant, they played against almost Cheltenham’s first team and we were the better team. They would have learnt a lot tonight and it’s healthy.”
Jay Foulston and Lewis Collins international call-up
In March, scholars Jay Foulston and Lewis Collins received a call-up to the Wales U19 squad for two friendlies against Croatia in Zagreb. Both players started in the two games, and when asked about the experience, Lewis Collins said: “Playing against Croatia was a huge challenge as they had very talented players playing for them and were very good as a team together, but the experience of playing against top players only helps me develop as a player.”
Jay Foulston also talked about his delight at receiving the call-up: “It was an amazing feeling when I got the call up for Wales, and an honour for me to represent my country for the U19s; I've always wanted to represent my country and what a feeling it was to do it.”
Modou and Jay contract
On April 16th, scholars Jay Foulston and Modou Touray were rewarded for their hard work and exceptional performances with professional contracts. The deals were announced at half-time against Swindon Town, where both players were named on the bench for the match. Touray signed a one-year deal which will expire in June 2019, and Foulston signed a two-year deal which will expire in June 2020.
First-Team Manager Michael Flynn said: It’s a fantastic opportunity for Jay to prove he can make a living out of the game. He’s someone with a great attitude and is keen to learn. If he takes on board what is being asked of him, he will have a very good career in the game.
He then went on to talk about Modou, stating: “Momodou has excelled during his time with the U19s Wales side.”