Chesterfield's youth team prepares for National League mini tournament after year without competitive football
After a year of lockdown there is finally some competitive football for Chesterfield’s youth players to look forward to.
The Spireites’ under-19 team is taking part in a ‘mini league’ next week against some other National League clubs, and the under-21s are also involved in a similar tournament.
The youngsters have been back in training for a few weeks and have played friendlies against the likes of Rotherham United, Scunthorpe United and Doncaster Rovers.
They have also beaten a team of aspiring young footballers from Indonesia, managed by former England internationals Dennis Wise and Des Walker, based at Loughborough University.
Town kick-off next Wednesday away at AFC Fylde. Their home matches will be played at Staveley Miners Welfare’s Inkersall Road ground, which has been revamped in recent months.
Explaining what the mini league is all about, Blues academy manager, Neil Cluxton, told the DT: “The National 19s League, as it was, was not going to be able to fulfill fixtures so a few teams in our area got together and said shall we create a mini league so we have got some competitive games to see us through until mid-May.
“They are competitive fixtures which is great for us. It just gives more meaning to the games when you have got three points to aim for rather than just go through the motions which sometimes happens when they play friendlies.”
The academy underwent a restructure last year after the club lost its Football League funding.
There are players from the ages of five and six up to 19 and 20. Most of them are from the Chesterfield area but others travel from Sheffield, Rotherham, Derby and Nottingham.
Covid scuppered the chance to fully kick-on with the player recruitment drive last year so that is the main aim this summer. More information on trials will be released in the next month.
One player who has impressed is winger Louis Czerwak, who joined the academy following a recommendation from former Chesterfield goalkeeper Mick Leonard.
“He is a Nottingham boy,” Cluxton said. “He is a very, very technical player, very skillful, can play off both feet, scored some great goals for us this season. He is probably the stand-out player in this stop-start season.”
Cluxton reports to first-team boss James Rowe and his assistant George Foster on a weekly basis and they are fully supportive of the academy.
“The first-team are flying at the moment which is brilliant but if they do ever need a player then I just want to make sure our lads are prepared and match ready to go and support them if required,” Cluxton explained.
"Everybody is pulling in the same direction, we have got some good local players and some good local people who support us behind the scenes with numerous volunteers in various roles and it has been great.
"We are looking forward to getting into a regular routine and starting to enjoy our football again. We have got a good bunch, hardworking lads, honest players, who are prepared to work hard and look to improve.”
Under-19 mini-league fixtures:
April 14: AFC Fylde (a)
April 21: Guiseley (h)
May 5: Chester (a)
May 12: FC Halifax Town (h)
May 19: York City (a)