Nine new boys aim to make their mark

Reporter: Matthew Chambers
Date published: 06 May 2010


A GROUP of nine promising youngsters has been snapped up on two-year scholarships with Athletic.

The boys — two of whom follow in the footsteps of Philip McGrath and Kirk Millar in crossing the Irish sea — will work under the guidance of youth team bosses Tony Philliskirk and Mick Priest as they attempt to break into the first team.

Athletic have an excellent record in bringing youth talent through to the first team, with Millar and Tom Eaves the latest prospects to be handed senior chances at Boundary Park.

The new arrivals:

Daniel Bell — A midfielder from North Wales, Bell has picked up national honours at under-16s level and has spent the last two to three years coming through the ranks.

David Mellor — A strong left-back or midfielder from Shaw, Mellor spent last season in the youth team squad on a full-time but non-contract basis after previously having problems with a knee injury.

Alex Parkes — Hailing from Wigan, centre-back or full-back Parkes is described as a “late arrival”. He was released by Preston and impressed enough on a one-month trial to be offered a deal.

Ryan Burns — Previously offered apprenticeships at Colchester and Peterborough only to be scuppered by changes in management, this Northern Ireland under-18s international winger played in the first team for Cliftonville this season and is of the same ilk as Philip McGrath.

Kyle Riley — This big, six-foot tall striker has been on Athletic's radar for some time and after being surprisingly released by Burnley the prolific Ashton youngster was quickly snapped up by the club.

Sam Fitzgerald — A Middleton midfielder who attended Cardinal Langley school, Fitzgerald is described as a "dynamic" player who has already played a number of matches at youth team level.

Dale Connor — Formerly an apprentice at his home-town club Sunderland, Connor took a year out to attend college where he gained honours at England under-19s level.

Carl Winchester — The second of Athletic's new Northern Ireland contingent, Belfast-born Winchester in a Northern Ireland under-17 and under-18s international who has played first-team football at Linfield and the club had to fight off a lot of interest to land the highly-rated midfielder or full-back.

Jack Laird — An out-and-out goal scorer who hails from Liverpool, Laird made his youth team debut as an under-15s player and has since built up his experience.