Southend United’s 21-year-old goalkeeper Daniel Bentley has been named The Football League’s Young Player of the Month for April 2015.The award covers players that play in all three divisions of The Sky Bet Football League.
A product of Southend’s youth academy, the 6ft 2inch stopper helped his team to seven wins from seven matches in April, keeping a clean sheet in every game as the Blues secured their place in the Sky Bet League 2 Play-Offs.
Picking up a club record 12th home shut-out of the season in the 1-0 win over Luton Town, Bentley’s unblemished record in April meant that Southend didn’t concede a goal between 18th March and 1st May.
Having made his debut during the 2012/13 season, Bentley has gone on to clock up over 100 first-team appearances for his local club, adding 18 League clean sheets this term to the tally of 20 he kept in all competitions during the 2013/14 season.
BBC Sport: Daniel Bentley - the keeper with shades of Schmeichel
With 46 appearances under his belt already in 2014/15, Bentley’s form has been a key factor in Southend’s promotion bid. This was reflected in the club’s end of season awards as Bentley was named in the PFA Team of the Year while voted Fans’ Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year and Community Player of the Year.
On collecting The Football League’s Young Player of the Month Award for March, Bentley said: “For players, especially goalkeepers, it is vitally important to play games.
“I have been able to build invaluable experience at Southend and I am very thankful and fortunate to get a chance here.
“It has been a consistent season for me after my first season as a professional last year. It was important that I followed it up with an equally as good if not better season.”
Phil Brown, Southend United’s manager, welcomed the award and praised the young stopper: “I watched him on the training grounds first, everything about him was very it was almost Schmeichel-esque and you could see in his approach he wanted to be the best he could possibly be.
“He’s very focused and has a belief system. The first one on the training ground and the last one away, he is absolutely that professional person. It’s a tell-tale sign that his consistency levels are good but also that he’s good enough to play at this level and if not higher.”
Each season, Football League 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 League clubs, making Football League Youth Development the largest centrally co-ordinated young player programme in world football. Over 200 players aged 21 or under make their professional debuts for Football League clubs each season.
Commenting on Bentley’s award, David Wetherall, Head of Youth Development at The Football League, said: “Daniel Bentley has had another tremendous season and it’s fantastic to see him getting the recognition his performances deserve. To set a club record and pick up three end of season awards is fantastic for any professional but to achieve this at such a young age is remarkable.”
Each month the accolade is awarded by The Football League to the young player who has made the most significant contribution and impact in first team football. To be eligible the player must be either under 21 years of age or be playing in the season during which he turns 21. Currently over a third of all players registered with Football League clubs are eligible to be considered for this award.