Milton Keynes Dons can today announce the latest intake of scholars ahead of the 2021/22 season.
Jacob Anderson, Joel Anker, Tommy Blennerhassett, Liam Mann, Ronnie Sandford and Charlie Waller have begun a two-year apprenticeship period with MK Dons, while Junior Gyamfi will continue with the Club as an extended schoolboy.
Those seven players add to Ryan Holmes, Brooklyn Ilunga, Tobi Ogundega and Charlie Smith to form Lee Colliers’ Under-18s side for the 2021/22 campaign.
Lewis Johnson, who will not turn 18 until next year, signed professional terms with MK Dons in February and is expected to be part of Russell Martin’s first-team squad once he recovers from the injury he suffered at the end of last season.
Academy Manager Jon Goodman told mkdons.com: “We are really excited about this group and what they can offer over the next 12 months.
“The incoming first-years have spent a significant amount of time with the second-years and have a feel for how we work and we saw that in the showcase game at Stadium MK back in May.
“This period is about ensuring their behaviours and standards are aligned with the first-team and, on top of that, developing their footballing identity to make themselves selectable to Russell Martin.
“With the players we offer scholarships too, we have to believe that they have a chance of helping Russell and his first-team and contributing to their success. We know there are no guarantees in professional football and they all still have a lot of work to do but I am very excited by this group.”
Lead Development Phase Coach Lee Collier said: “It was great to have a bit of time with them in the final few months of last season and we were able to integrate them into the group.
“They have fitted in really well and I’ve been really happy with them in the first couple of weeks of training. We are getting to know more and more about the group as the days go by but there is clearly a good blend of player, who are full of enthusiasm.”
Sporting Director Liam Sweeting added: “This is an exciting time for any player to be involved with MK Dons and for our first years stepping into this environment it will be no different.
“Like the first team, the academy staff have set the bar high in terms of their decisions and recruitment, and together with Jon and Lee, I’m looking forward to watching their progress closely this season.”
The Club can also confirm that Joshua Bailey, Malaki Black, Tom Carter, Max Crane, Rio Deall, James Holmes, Tom Rowley and Harry Riley have departed the Club following the end of their scholarship period. Everyone at MK Dons would like to wish each player every success in the future.
Tali Jallow, whose apprenticeship has also come to end, will remain at Stadium MK while he rehabilitates an injury suffered last season.
Lee Collier provides a summary of the new first-year scholars and what to expect from them over the next two years…
“Jacob is a right-footed centre-back who is very athletic but technically good on the ball too. He is more of an out-and-out centre-half at the moment and one who will need refining, but he is somebody with potential.”
“Joel is a wide player who can also play in the number 10 role. He’s very capable technically but also very hard-working and honest off the ball. He’s always looking to make something happen and is definitely a character in the group.”
“Tommy is your old-school centre-forward. He does a lot of his work in and around the box and certainly knows where the goal is. He needs to refine his game in certain areas but he’s somebody who wants to, and can, score goals.”
“Junior is a midfield player who is technically very good on the ball. He is industrious and gets around the pitch, breaking up the play. Off the pitch, he is a great character who helps to bring the group together.”
“Liam is another midfield player and, again, is someone who is very athletic and can get around the pitch well. He loves to get on the football and is a player who I think we’ll see the best of as the season goes on.”
“Ronnie is very comfortable on the football as well as between the sticks. He has a great personality and has done well already while training with the first-team this pre-season.”
“Charlie is a left-footed centre-back or left back, who is technically very capable. He is six-foot plus and is becoming very athletic as he begins to grow into his body.”
MK Dons Under-18s squad for 2021/22 season:
Ronnie Sandford (First-year)
Jacob Anderson (First-year)
Tobi Ogundega (Second-year)
Charlie Smith (Second-year)
Charlie Waller (First-year)
Joel Anker (First-year)
Brooklyn Ilunga (Second-year)
Liam Mann (First-year)
Tommy Blennerhassett (First-year)
Ryan Holmes (Second-year)