More than 40 young Northern Ireland players are currently professionals or scholars in England and Scotland thanks to the Irish Football Association’s elite player pathway.
Football statistician Marshall Gillespie has discovered that over the past 10 years a total of 45 players who play professionally in England or Scotland, or who are serving apprenticeships, have come through either JD Club NI or the current JD Academy/National Performance Programme pathway which has evolved from it.
And his figures do not take into account the dozens of players who are currently professionals in the NIFL Danske Bank Premiership, NIFL Lough 41 Championship or around the globe who also benefitted from being part of the association’s elite player pathway for boys.
Marshall’s breakdown is as follows:
Premier League professionals (10):
Ben Wilson (Brighton & Hove Albion), Sam McClelland (Chelsea), Aidan Steele (Crystal Palace), Sean McAllister (Everton), Charlie Allen (Leeds United), Conor Bradley (Liverpool), Liam Hughes (Liverpool, currently on loan at Stalybridge Celtic), Ethan Galbraith (Manchester United, currently on loan at Doncaster Rovers), Sean Stewart (Norwich City), Jack Scott (Wolverhampton Wanderers, currently on loan at St Patrick’s Athletic).
Premier League scholars (seven):
Caolan McBride (Aston Villa), Ruairi McConville (Brighton & Hove Albion), Dane McCullough (Burnley), Dylan Graham (Everton), Matty Carson (Southampton), Michael Forbes (West Ham United), Callum Marshall (West Ham United).
EFL Championship professionals (eight):
Conor Falls (Huddersfield Town), Brodie Spencer (Huddersfield Town), Alberto Balde (Middlesbrough), Caolan Boyd-Munce (Middlesbrough), Aaron Donnelly (Nottingham Forest), Jamie McDonnell (Nottingham Forest), Dale Taylor (Nottingham Forest), Josh Roney (Stoke City).
EFL League One professionals (nine):
Barry Baggley, Dylan Boyle, Christopher Conn-Clarke, Carl Johnston (all Fleetwood Town), Harry Wilson (also Fleetwood Town, currently on loan at FC United of Manchester), Cameron Stewart (Ipswich Town), Oisin Smyth (Oxford United), Ollie Webber (Portsmouth), Trai Hume (Sunderland).
EFL League One scholars (two):
Jake Wallace (Fleetwood Town), Bobby Deane (Lincoln City, currently on loan at Lincoln United).
Scottish Premiership professionals (four):
Conor Hazard (Celtic, currently on loan with HJK Helsinki), Ben Wylie (Celtic), Ross McCausland (Rangers), Chris McKee (Rangers, currently on loan at Linfield).
Scottish Premiership scholars (two):
Charlie Lindsay and Lewis MacKinnon (both Rangers).
Scottish Championship professionals (one):
Shea Gordon (Partick Thistle, currently on loan at Queen of the South).
National League scholars (two):
Josh Kee and Jamie Robinson (both Chesterfield).
Five of the 45 players have come through the Irish FA JD Academy to date, with many more expected to follow, including Jack Patterson, who will join Everton this summer. Now in its third year, the academy for elite young footballers from school years 11 and 12 did not have a full complement in year one and was affected by Covid last year.
The five GB-based graduates of the academy so far are: Charlie Allen, Callum Marshall, Brodie Spencer, Dale Taylor and Josh Roney.
Image: Goalkeeper Conor Hazard, who has earned three senior caps for Northern Ireland, came through the JD Club NI ranks.