MK Dons star Brooklyn Ilunga has been named in League Football Education’s (LFE) ‘The 11’ – recognition for his on and off pitch achievements.
‘The 11’ acknowledges the football and academic progress of Under-18 players on apprenticeships at current or former EFL clubs – and is also designed to assess other factors, including involvement in community or charity-based initiatives.
Since Illunga made his senior debut on the final day of the 2020/21 season, he has featured on three more occasions and penned his first professional contract with MK Dons.
The 17-year-old has had to overcome adversity by dealing with the loss of his father, a long-term injury, and the disruptions of Covid-19. His recent achievements have been a reward for his tremendous hard work both on and off the football pitch.
Academy Manager Jon Goodman revealed his pride at how Brooklyn has developed in the recent review period, telling LFE: “When I first joined as Academy Manager three seasons ago, Brooklyn immediately struck me as a player with enormous potential. As an Under-16 playing up with the scholars, he always had an impact on the game and played with passion and flair.
“Despite the challenge of an injury, the disrupted apprenticeship program and the loss of his father, Brooklyn has maintained his focus and inner drive to be successful. This culminated with a successful pre-season period with the first- team at the start of the 2021/22 campaign.
“Brooklyn has since made further first-team appearances and has recently been rewarded with his first professional contract. On and off the pitch, Brooklyn is a pleasure to be around and is a positive influence upon all he connects with. We are proud to work with him each day here at MK Dons.”
LFE Regional Officer Gavin Willacy mirrored Goodman’s views: “Brooklyn has always been an impressive apprentice, but this season he has excelled and really accelerated his progress.
“He has worked his way into the first-team squad, where he trains every day, and has made a handful of League One appearances, as well as starting games in the EFL Trophy. Throughout this time, Brooklyn has remained polite, professional, and keen to improve in every area of his life.
“At MK College he has continued the BTEC Extended Diploma where he has been achieving distinction grades, despite missing several sessions due to first-team duties. Overall Brooklyn has been a model apprentice and is an individual that younger apprentices should aspire to follow.”
A total of 33 apprentices from a selection of 1,100 are recognised for the award during the 2021/22 season, which celebrates the holistic development of young players and is a barometer applied to the LFE Apprentice of the Year awards.
Notable academy graduates to earn the accolade includes Jude Bellingham (formerly of Birmingham City), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (formerly of Sheffield United), Ademola Lookman (formerly of Charlton Athletic), Oli McBurnie (formerly of Bradford City) and Ryan Sessegnon (formerly of Fulham).
LFE chief executive Sarah Stephen added: “The 11 is directly associated with apprentice reviews that are conducted by our Regional Officers throughout the season. It is a great way to highlight the achievements and progression of talented young footballers, who apply themselves to all aspects of their apprenticeship.”
‘The 11’ for November is as follows:
Harry Leeson (Bristol City
Ryan Howley (Coventry City)
Jevon Mills (Hull City)
Jephte Tanga (Leyton Orient)
Brooklyn Illunga (MK Dons)
James Clarridge (Nottingham Forest)
Dan Gifford (Portsmouth)
Henry Hawkins (Queens Park Rangers)
Louie Arrowsmith (Southend United)
Alex Aitken (Stevenage)
Tommy Simkin (Stoke City)