Oxford United's Ryan Ledson with manager Michael Appleton
Oxford United’s 19-year old starlet Ryan Ledson has been awarded the EFL Young Player of the Month for February after a breakthrough month at the club.
Ledson has been influential in the U’s midfield with their rise up the Sky Bet League One table, winning four out of five matches in February.
Enjoying his partnership in midfield with former Everton teammate John Lundstram, the youngster has impressed everyone with his committed performances, hard tackling and visionary passing.
Having been at Premier League Everton since he was just five years old, in the summer of 2016 Ledson signed for Oxford United in his search for regular first team football.
On winning the EFL Young Player of the Month award he said: “It’s a great honour for me to win this award but it’s down to the team that help me, the manager that plays me and obviously I’m really happy.
“We didn’t have the best of starts because we were a new squad but we’ve really come together now and are playing much better football which has seen us get a lot of good results.”
The League One side notched four wins out of five in February, with Ledson playing an integral part in midfield since becoming a first team regular.
He has been capped by England at Under-16 level right through to Under-20 level and last week was named in Paul Simpson’s England Under-20’s squad for an upcoming tournament in France.
First team manager Michael Appleton was full of praise for the midfielder following his England call-up: “It’s a blow to lose him for a period of games, but this will be really positive for Ryan. It will allow him to play in a different type of game and be really good for his development - he deserves it.”
Ledson went on to say how much he is enjoying his time at Oxford, adding: “I’m gaining experience every single week here. I’m learning to adapt my game to different styles that different teams play and it can only be beneficial to me playing these sorts of games.
“There’s only a certain amount of Under-23 games you can play before you need to go out there and experience real team football in front of the crowds. I’d recommend any young player to go and find first team football and play as many games as they can.”
It is a principle that is being backed nationally through the recently launched EFL Futures campaign, of which Ledson qualifies, to reward clubs who introduce young English players into their starting line-ups with a £2.25million financial incentive scheme.
Each season EFL Clubs invest more than £60m on identifying, training and educating the next generation of football talent. There are 8,500 young players between the ages of eight and 18 registered with EFL Clubs, making EFL Youth Development the largest centrally coordinated young player programme in world football.
As Oxford United prepare for a trip to Wembley for the Checkatrade Trophy Final on Sunday 2nd April, U’s ticket sales have reached nearly 25,000 and Ledson is relishing the chance to play on the big stage.
“It’ll be my first time playing at Wembley which will be a great experience. We have to prepare as we would for any game and try not to let the occasion affect us but it’ll be great to see so many fans supporting us and hopefully get the win.”
EFL Young Player of the Month winners - Season 2016/17
August: Nathan Smith (Port Vale)
September: Tammy Abraham (Bristol City)
October: Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United)
November: Liam Mandeville (Doncaster Rovers)
December: Frankie Kent (Colchester United)
January: John Swift (Reading)