Second starlet graduates to first team football

By David Watters

NPL Football Academy

Dylan Shilcock became the second student from the NPL Football Academy to make his first team semi-professional debut on Wednesday night when he came on as a late sub in Leek Town's 2-1 win at Sheffield FC in the EVO-STIK Northern Premier League.

The top scorer at the Blues academy won a place on the bench at Dronfield before coming on for manager Lee Casswell as a 90th minute substitute in the First Division South win for the promotion-chasers.

The 16-year-old follows in the footsteps of the Yohan Rutty-Smith who became the first ever student from the NPL Football Academy to graduate to first team football in November when he made his debut for Romulus in their Doodson Sport Cup tie against Sutton Coldfield.

In February, the 16-year-old left-back wrote himself into the NPLFA's history books again when he became the first student to progress to the professional game by signing for League One Notts County.

Leek Town's academy manager Steve Kell believes Shilcock's promotion had only been "a matter of time" with the application he has been showing in the classroon as well as on the pitch.

Kell said: "It was only a matter of time before Dylan's opportunity came. He's undoubtedly a very talented and skillful player who knows how to score goals, and score goals in various situations with different techniques.

"He was a player who I spoke to Lee Casswell about straight after our first trial match at Harrison Park way back in June 2014. He's got the attributes to push on to that next level with the right guidance.

"We're all immensely proud at Leek Town, especially his team mates and the coaches who work with that group of players every day. Hopefully there'll be opportunities for other players as we have a great group and performances have showed that of late."

He added: "This proves what the NPL Football Academy is all about, progress and development, and that only bodes well for the future of the scheme and the clubs involved."

The young striker won't get much rest this week after making his debut. On Wednesday he is due to travel to Mickleover Sports with his teammates in an NPLFA Youth League league fixture.

The Radcliffe Boro duo of Ben Oldroyd and Adam Henshall are favourites to be the next NPLFA players to graduate after being rewarded with first team squad places at the First Division North club last week.

The EVO-STIK NPL became the first league in English football to launch a youth league and academy combining football with further education this season.

Since opening its doors in September to its first intake of students at five pilot clubs - Leek Town, Mickleover Sports, Newcastle Town, Radcliffe Borough and Romulus - seven more clubs - Kidsgrove Athletic, Halesowen Town, Mossley AFC, Belper Town, Lancaster City and Witton Albion - have announced that they are joining the NPLFA in September.

Launched last summer with the backing of the Football Association to provide career pathways into the football industry, students aged 16-18 who win a place with the NPLFA study on two year courses for Level 3 Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) qualifications.

While studying, students compete in the EVO-STIK NPL Youth League, the academy's own FA sanctioned competition, while being trained on a daily basis by UEFA ‘B’ qualified coaches.

The NPLFA's staff and coaches announced earlier this month that they are inviting potential students for next season to train with them over Easter at eleven of the 12 clubs and find out what the fastest growing academy in English football is all about.

For more information on registering for the the Easter sessions and to follow the new academy's progress visit Alternatively follow the NPLFA at or find the academy at

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Where next?

Tuesday's First Division North action review EVO-STIK NPL First Division North
Monday's First Division South action review EVO-STIK NPL First Division South

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