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Cheltenham Town Academy: An insight into how loans develop young players in football

With the January transfer window shut, the opportunity has arisen for young and upcoming players to shine, Cheltenham Town have had a breakthrough year in the academy, but what makes a youth player learn their lessons in the game?

Tom King has been in the headlines in recent weeks following his first professional contract with the club, breaking through the youth without a single loan spell.

These three players from the academy have endured loan spells over this season to further their development, with Gloucestershire being a key starting point in their early careers.

Alex Wilkie, on loan at Fairford Town

Credit: Cheltenham Town/Nizaam Jones

Second year Alex Wilkie has played his season out at Fairford Town who are currently in the Hellenic league Premier Division, Wilkie, who is a central defender is looking promising as a Young Robin.

“The biggest thing i’ve taken from my loan spell is the physical difference in stepping up into men’s football and realising the games are more important with people fighting for bonuses and points on the table.

“It’s helping my game because I have become more physical in 1 on1s in the air, also gaining experince on how to protect a lead with ten men.”

Brandon Liggett, on loan at Gloucester City

Brandon Liggett, who captains the academy, has experienced four different loans at the age of just 17.

The defensive minded midfielder has been seen at Swindon Supermarine, Hungerford Town, Cinderford Town and now Gloucester City.

“It’s been difficult to break into the first team due to the circumstances i’ve come into and the amount of players in the squad, however i’ve still had chances and believe i’ll still have more as the season goes on.

“I’m a lot more physical out of possession it’s helping me with how quick i move the ball, also the understanding of the men’s game week in, week out, which i think comes down to a lot of decision making.”

Fred Willcox, on loan at Evesham United

Credit: Cheltenham Town/Nizaam Jones

Willcox has been lucky enough to make two appearances in League One for the first team, a promising attacking minded midfielder, the 18-year-old has shown signs a strong prospect in the academy.

He’s spent this season on loan at Evesham United who play in the Southern Football League.

“I’m enjoying my loan, the added pressure of fighting every week for three points and staying in the play offs is bringing the excitement.

“I would say the biggest area i have improved on is reading the game, the loan has helped me further my development as it teaches you how to manage games in certain moments to help take the pressure of your team.

“My biggest acheievement so far is playing every single minute, around 15 games, picking up a couple of goals and man of the matches in these games.”

From Fairford to Evesham, these loan spells show how vital it is to a youth player in their development, in the coming months, keep a close eye on the Cheltenham Town academy…

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