ACADEMY UPDATE: B Team restructure

We can now confirm that following a restructure, the Academy has transitioned its Under 21 side into a B Team for the start of the 2024-2025 season; with the aim of seeing more Academy players successfully progressing and challenging for opportunities at First Team Level.

We have created a structure that closely aligns the Academy to the First Team, whilst exposing our young and talented players to senior football through a supervised and structured loans programme, and providing the players in the B Group with the training and support for them to step up to the next level at the Club.

The structure allows us to focus on the individual needs of the players within the group, who will be exposed to our First-Team staff more frequently and still participate in fixtures with Aldershot Town throughout the season.

The following youngsters will form the B Team group for the coming season, with several signed on development contracts with the Club:

Joe Lewis-Evans – Wide Player

Lewis-Evans joined the club at Under 11s and has progressed through the club’s academy system. He won the Under 21s Player of the Year for his performances last season, and is a forward-thinking player who can play multiple positions. He was a regular part of the Under 21 Suburban League title winning squad in 2022/23 and part of the team that reached the Hampshire Senior Cup Semi-Final in the same season.

Lewis-Evans said: “I’ve been training with the first-team and that has helped with getting used to that side of the game. I’ve been with the Shots since under 11s and so I’m looking forward to this next part of the journey.”

Freddie Stanley – Defender

Stanley joined Aldershot in June 2023 from Stevenage. He was named the Under 21 captain and played a pivotal role in their season, winning the Champion of Champions Trophy and finishing runners-up in the Suburban League. Freddie is a left-footed central defender, who was part of the group of Academy boys who trained with the England C team prior to their Nepal International fixture in May.

Stanley said: “I’m delighted to sign and I’m very excited to see what this year holds as the club has been progressing and I’m really looking forward to being a part of that. Hopefully I can make my debut and show the fans what I can bring.”

Louis Hutchings – Central midfielder

Hutchings joined us from Reading last summer where he had previously spent the last six years. Technically proficient and incredibly quick, Louis is a dynamic box-to-box midfielder who was part of the under 21s side last season and also trained with the England C team in May.

Hutchings said: “It’s very exciting part of my journey. I can’t wait to get started and the hard work continues.”

Harry Thorpe – Attacking midfielder

Despite joining the Academy from Grimsby Town last summer, Thorpe is local to the area. He is another player from the under 21 side from last season who has progressed to the B Team group and trained as an Academy representative in the England C training camp. The midfielder is a hard working attacking midfielder who contributed with 13 goals and 18 assists last season.

Thorpe said: “I’m buzzing to sign my contract, it was a lot of hard work last season and throughout my career and I can’t wait to get started.”

Billy Walsh – Central midfielder

Walsh is a holding midfielder who signs for Aldershot this summer having previously been at AFC Sudbury. An aggressive ball-winning midfielder who also has an eye for a pass, he joins Aldershot having already played several games in senior football.

Walsh said: “I’m happy to sign on and I’m looking forward to the opportunity this coming year.”

Mark Holley – Central midfielder

Holley is entering his third season at Aldershot Town, having joined us from Reading’s Academy. He is a versatile midfielder who was part of our Under 18 side last season that competed in the Under 19 National League, reached the First Round of the FA Youth Cup and won the Hampshire Midweek Floodlit Cup. The midfielder also broke into the Under 21 side last season and was awarded the under 18s Player of the Year.

Holley said: “I’m proud to sign on and I’m looking forward to this next step in my journey.”

Toby Nelson – Attacking midfielder

Nelson is another entering his third season at Aldershot, having joined us from Crystal Palace. He progresses into the B Team group having represented England Schoolboys during last season in their Centenary Shield campaign. Nelson is an attacking player who can play on either side, or centrally, regularly contributing both goals and assists throughout the Under 18s Under 19 National League, FA Youth Cup and successful Hampshire Midweek Floodlit Cup campaigns last season. He also featured in the Under 21 side last season having broken into the team in his first year.

Nelson said: “I’m absolutely buzzing and I can’t wait to get started – I’m very proud of myself. it was a long process but worth it and I’m looking forward to pushing on.”

Milo Derham – Central midfielder

Derham has been with the Academy since Under 14s and progressed through the Academy system into the B Team group. He is a central midfielder with a varied passing range, and another member of the Under 18s team who won the Hampshire Midweek Floodlit Cup and featured in our FA Youth Cup campaign last season.

Derham said: “I’m very excited to sign for a club I’ve been at for a few years and I’m excited for what the future holds.”

Eddie Cooper – Defender

Cooper joined the Academy two seasons ago initially as a tenacious, tough-tackling midfielder. Whilst still highly combative, he has moved to a full back/central defensive role, making the transition with ease. Part of last season’s Under 18 team, Cooper’s standout moment from last season was undoubtedly his goal against Weston-super-Mare, overlapping and attacking the box from the right side of a back three.

Cooper said: “It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to making my mark and growing as a player. I’m always looking to improve and develop and become a better player. It was a good season last year and I’m happy with how it ended getting a goal and MOTM in the Hampshire Midweek Floodlit Cup Final.”

Charlie Sell – Attacker

Sell joined the Academy from Walton & Hersham and is a technical left-footed and forward-thinking attacking player. His standout moment last season was most certainly his five goals in a single game to help the Under 18s progress in the Hampshire Midweek Floodlit Cup.

Sell said: “It’s a great feeling to sign on. The hard work begins now and I’m looking forward to getting started with it all!”

Kian Salt – Defender

Salt joined the Academy from Eastleigh last summer, having recently recovered from a long-term injury and was settling in well. However, he unfortunately suffered with a different long-term injury at the start of last season and ended up missing all of that campaign. He continues his rehab with us and we’re looking forward to seeing a talented defender return to action in the new B Team group.

Salt said: “It’s great. It’s a very proud moment for me. There’s still a lot of work to do and still a long season ahead but I’m ready to crack on and get playing.”

Alex Walder – Goalkeeper

Despite an injury-hit season season, Walder has played a significant role for the Under 18s last season and for the Under 17s in his first year with the Academy, culminating in lifting the Hampshire Midweek Floodlit Cup. As a goalkeeper, Alex is a very capable shot stopper who is comfortable with the ball at his feet.

Walder said: “I’m happy to be taking forward steps in my career and I’m looking forward to the positives it can lead to.”

Morgan Elliott – Defender

Elliott is another entering his third year with the Academy. Initially joining the Academy as an attacking midfielder, he has made tremendous strides after moving to a central defensive position, even overcoming an injury which hindered a large part of his first year with the Academy. Elliott featured regularly with the Under 21s side at the end of last season, and was awarded the Under 18 Player’s Player of the Year for 2023/2024.

Elliott said: “It’s an honour to have a club that trusts me and has supported me throughout my journey. I look forward to hopefully making my professional debut soon!”

Zion Nditi – Defender

Nditi is a former Reading Academy player, having been captain of their Under 18s side. A regular in the under 21s last season, he was also called up to train with the Tanzania National Team in preparation for their AFCON campaign in January 2024. He is a quick right-wing back who is tough to beat in one-v-one situations, whilst offering a threat going forwards.

Congratulations to all of the youngsters on their progression!

On the large batch of Academy players progressing to our B Team group and on the changes made to the structure, Academy Manager Richard Anderson said:

“We are all delighted for all the boys who are progressing into our newly formed B Team group for the coming season. We are striving to structure the Academy in a way that allows us to provide the First-Team with a succession of talent year on year, and these boys have demonstrated high and consistent levels of performance throughout their time with us.”

“It is an exciting time for the Academy with the progress that has been made in the past two seasons. With six Academy players having made their First-Team debuts during this time, we are hoping that these boys will be the next group of players to make an impact at First-Team level. It is a challenge that will no doubt push them to even greater levels of performance in the demanding environment of senior football.”

“I’m sure everyone connected with Aldershot Town joins me in congratulating them for their achievements and wishing them the best in their continued journey with the club, as the hard work now starts for them.”

First-Team Manager Tommy Widdrington added: “We’re really excited to be going ahead with this restructure as we all believe it will provide our talented youngsters with a better pathway to our first-team.”

“We have a number of players in our current first-team squad who have already made the step up from our Academy sides in previous years and our new B team will provide a higher standard of opposition for our latest batch of talents, whilst allowing them to work a lot closer to the first-team environment.”

“I’ve been really impressed with the quality of the players that I’ve seen both in Academy games and in our own training sessions when we’ve needed extra bodies and believe that the future is bright!”