A look at some of the best players I’ve seen in the past few years at either U18s or U23s level or currently playing in non-league who've either left a really positive impression or whose careers I follow with genuine interest to see how they're doing every week.
Player: Freddy Jeffreys
Club: Bradford City
Along with Bobby Pointon and Cole Roberts, another player who left a positive and lasting impression once he broke into Bradford's youth team last season was Freddy Jeffreys.
His appearances were scattered during the first part of the campaign but post the FA Youth Cup defeat to Oldham in November, despite being the youngest scholar, he managed to establish himself as a regular in the starting xi - and he didn't half do so in a phenomenal way!
|Freddy pulling the strings in one of many games where he played well (Photo: Unknown).|
The game I saw where he first stood out was at Grimsby in April on the day when the Bantams won to clinch the league title. In any other year, Grimsby themselves would have been worthy champions because they're a good team with some decent players/philosophies, but in this game they were carved apart by Freddy's composure and quality on the ball.
From his deep-lying midfield position, his accuracy of passing was superb; the weight of it was good, he dictated the play, set up chances and there was a broad identity in how he went about the game as an individual and moved around to make space on the pitch from which to dominate matters. Even in tight pockets and being put under pressure, he still managed to retain the ball owing to clever footwork and there were just lots of very bright qualities on show which I can remember well.
Fast-forward exactly one month to the last game of the North-East Youth Alliance season and it was a privilege to be sat up high in the stands at Valley Parade (from where you can see EVERYTHING what happens on the pitch), and witness another display where his energy, effort and class shone through again. Very similar to what he did at Grimsby, he got into the right areas to receive possession and then made things look effortless; picking off piercing passes and through balls left, right and centre from the first to last minute which almost always found a team-mate. He was just an instigator of so many problems along with the aforementioned Messers Pointon and Cole who wreaked their own plethora of havoc on Doncaster's defence.
Undoubtedly the scariest thing, given all his ability already, is that Freddy is only 16 and doesn't actually turn 17 until the end of August - so much so that if he'd been born just a few days later, then he'd be in the younger year group preparing to start their scholarships in the next few days.
|Just doing his thing in the game at Grimsby on the day the top spot was secured.|
Having seen Oliver Arblaster at Sheffield United, there's comparisons in playing style which I can draw between them both - and likewise with Will McGowan who is the most technically-gifted player I've ever seen in the academy ranks at Doncaster (and ironically has a late August birthday too).
It's testament to Freddy that he established himself as a key player in such a talented group and contributed a significant part in their title success. Along with all the assists he got to his name, he weighed in with goals such as a late winner against Huddersfield just before Christmas, two against Scunthorpe, one against Harrogate and then another in a walloping of Rotherham.
I've got no doubt he'll be able to recall each of those goals with the same enthusiasm he showed when he was helping to tear opponents to pieces; especially the Huddersfield one which I imagine was a very sweet moment (for a few reasons) to finally tap the ball home after it hit both posts initially.
It didn't surprise me one iota to see a few pieces in national papers recently linking him with a move to either Fulham or Southampton. When a player shows the quality in games which Freddy has (and, importantly, when that quality is on a consistent enough basis) then it's naturally going to attract admirers.
That speculation is for another time so well done on having a good impact last season.
You've earned my respect for playing a big part in the title success and creating good memories which you and the lads will be able to recall instantly when you're having a reunion in years to come. Every player, even the big dogs at the top level, recall their YT days with fondness and when you've got a title winners medal as a memento, the feeling is even better!
Keep focused, stay level-headed, keep working hard to make your family proud and remember you've still got lots more to achieve.
I look forward to seeing you giving it your best effort next year.