Colchester United’s Frankie Kent has been named the EFL Young Player of the Month for December.The 21-year-old recently made his 50th appearance for the club and, as a prominent feature in the U’s back line, helped John McGreal’s side remain unbeaten over the busy festive period, as well as keeping two clean sheets.
Kent joined the U’s at the age of 16 on a two-year scholarship when current first-team manager John McGreal was Under-18s manager. Since going on to make his first-team debut as an 18-year-old, Kent has benefitted from the opportunity to play senior football at a young age.
On winning the EFL Young Player of the Month award, he said: “It’s actually come as a bit of a shock to me, but I’m really pleased to have won it and I just hope we can keep our good form going.”
Having taken 19 points from a possible 21 in the lead up to the New Year, the U’s have risen to seventh place in Sky Bet League Two, success that has been put down to their recent introduction of a three-man defence, with Kent at the heart of it.
He continued: “I’m really enjoying the position I’m playing at the moment with our new formation and, if you enjoy your football, naturally you’re going to play better.”
December’s Sky Bet League Two Manager of the Month John McGreal also praised the development of his young centre-back stating that he could go a long way.
“He's a 6' 2”, ball-playing centre-back,” the boss said. “He's getting more aggressive with his play and his reading of the game is excellent.
"He's still got a lot to do but, being a centre-back playing regular League Two football at 21, that bodes well for him."
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Kent started at Arsenal’s Academy, progressing through the age groups of before joining Colchester United’s Academy in 2012. He captained the Under-18 side to a league trophy, which led to his success in the senior team.
Exposure to first-team football at a young age is a principle that is being backed nationally through the recently-launched EFL Futures campaign, which rewards clubs who introduce young English players into their starting line-ups with a £2.25million financial incentive scheme.
“First-team football here has helped me massively,” Kent explained. “You gain so much experience and have to learn so quickly.
“There are points at stake and every game matters so you need to be 100% on it all the time and I’m very fortunate to have been given an opportunity here that I might not have got elsewhere.
“He [John McGreal] has made me the player I am today having worked with him from Under-16 level.
“He tells me the things I don’t want to hear and makes me do things I don’t necessarily want to do, but he’s given me the freedom to let me play how I want to play and it’s helped.”
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.
On Kent winning December’s award, Director of Youth Development at the EFL, David Wetherall, said: “Frankie has played a very positive role in Colchester’s recent good form.
“It’s very pleasing to see a product of an Academy not only graduate to first-team level, but performing strongly at that level, and Frankie is certainly doing that.
“It’s also pleasing to see that the club’s continued focus on developing their own young players is having a very positive effect at first-team level.”
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)