FOOTBALLERS released by some of the country’s biggest clubs are getting a second chance in Wrexham and have made it their new homes.
Young players enrolled on the new Glyndwr Wrexham Football Academy (GWFA) course have told of their delight at being given the opportunity.
The link-up between Wrexham FC and Glyndwr University sees young footballers released by other clubs given another chance, while furthering their academic careers.
They will help make-up Wrexham’s reserve team next season while studying for degrees and other qualifications at Glyndwr, and hope to break into the first-team squad or gain experience on loan at other clubs in the area.
The majority of the squad have been with Premier League or Football League clubs.
They have come from teams including Manchester City, QPR, Leicester City and Burnley, to the delight of academy managers Lee Jones and Adam Owen, and Wrexham FC director Barry Horne.
Supported by ambassadors Michael Owen, Aaron Ramsey and Neil Taylor, GWFA will allow the footballers to study for a degree at Glyndwr while training and play for the Dragons or a feeder club.
Fifteen players from all over the country have joined up in the last two weeks to train and get used to life in the town.
At the official launch of the scheme yesterday, the Leader was given the chance to find out more about those involved.
l GWFA’s first pre-season game v Lex Glyndwr, will be held at Colliers Park training ground in Gresford tonight at 7pm.
l The eldest player on the course is James Etherington, 22, from Maidstone in Kent.
After being released by Grimsby Town, he spent recent years playing part-time for Whitstable Town.
He said: “I had two-and-a-half years at Grimsby, first as a youth player and then as a pro until I was 20.
“It was disappointing to be released, but I don’t regret anything.
“This is a second chance to get back into professional football, and the education part is great because I didn’t get many qualifications at school. We’ve all settled in really well. Because I’m the oldest, the other lads call me ‘grandad’. We keep each other going when it gets tough, and we’ve been training with the first-team.”
He added: “It’s very encouraging that the manager [Kevin Wilkin] has said he wants to take a look at us and get us involved in the pre-season friendlies coming up.
“Wrexham seems a very tight-knit community like Grimsby. Your face gets known quite quickly, but you stay professional. It’s such a nice club, I’ve never known a club to be so helpful to every individual, for someone to be there to help you when you need them.”
l Ugandan under-19 international Salvyn Kisitu, 18, from London, once very highly-rated by Swindon Town, is looking to make the most of his second-chance with the Reds while studying for a degree in Sports Science.
He said: “I was at Leyton Orient up to under-16 level, when I got a two-year scholarship with Swindon Town, but I was let go.
“I was over in Uganda in May playing for the national team’s
under-19s and that was an incredible experience.
“The weather out there was blazing hot, it was unreal.
“I’m going to have to get used to the Welsh weather.
“This is a great opportunity for me to get my education, get a degree and carry on in professional football. The town has got everything I need.”
He added: “My aim is to make a first-team appearance.
“I’m strong, pacey and can grab the odd goal. All the lads are brilliant.
“It took a week to bond, and it’s like we’ve all been together for a year.”
l Liam Sharpe, 19, of Tamworth, spent time at Manchester City before a year-long spell at Leicester City.
He said: “I found out Leicester were letting me go at the start of May, which is quite late. Lee Jones and Adam Owen contacted me about this course and it all happened quite quickly. I’ve been here a couple of weeks now.
“We’re staying in the student flats next to the ground, which is good as we’ve all been in digs before.”
l At the launch, Wrexham director and ex-Wales international Barry Horne tipped central midfielder Corey Roper to shine.
The 18-year-old, from Doncaster, said: “I was at Leeds United for 12 years since I was six-years-old.
“They let me go and I was gutted. I played in the ‘exit trial’ games which is when Lee Jones and Adam Owen got in touch. I’d not thought about doing a degree before but it will be great to have something extra as well as playing.
“Although Wrexham aren’t as big a club as Leeds, it’s a really great
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