It is that time of year once again when aspiring footballers across the country compete to impress attending scouts with a chance to turn the dreams of becoming a professional footballer into a reality.
The EFL Exit Trials give teenage footballers, aged between 15 and 16 who have been released by their previous club, a second chance to make it as a professional footballer. With scouts from across the country in attendance across three venues, participants feature in the hope of being taken on as a scholar and eventually getting that professional contract.
Day Two of trials were in the Midlands, with 111 players previously released from clubs across the EFL vying to catch the eye of more than 100 scouts watching over them.
Eight 11-a-side teams were selected based on the players’ positions to enable a balanced set of fixtures, with all eight teams taking part in three games lasting 30 minutes each. David Wetherall, Director of Youth Development at the EFL and former Leeds United and Bradford City defender, organised today’s trials and knows of the importance it carries for all of the participants.
“Today is important from a number of perspectives, as it gives these players here today a chance to perform well in front of scouts from across the EFL, but it also plays a part in the process of acceptance should it not quite go as planned.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for those involved, but also a very nerve-wracking one for both the players and their parents. Football is a harsh environment with many wanting to earn contracts at EFL clubs, and the Exit Trials represent a fantastic chance to achieve that.”
The #EFL Head of Youth Development, David Wetherall, explained the opportunities available to players this afternoon. 👇 pic.twitter.com/yooGkN0uD2— EFL (@EFL) February 13, 2018
Of the 260 players to attend last year’s trials, 70 received expressions of interest from professional clubs, with approximately one in nine going on to sign scholarship contracts with EFL clubs.
Great Britain Olympian and Burton Albion striker Marvin Sordell, along with Jamaican international Theo Robinson, are just two of the success stories to come out of the EFL Exit Trials, with current Premier League side Watford picking up the pair in separate years.
Archie Elmore, an attacking player who spent eight years at Coventry City before attending the trials today, is hoping he can be one of those to be taken on at an EFL club.
“It was in November that Coventry told me I would no longer be at the club, and it’s really hard to take in,” said Elmore. “There was another three alongside me released, but it’s one of them you prepare yourself for because it can happen to anybody at the club.
“I thought I played quite well today, hopefully I did enough because it was difficult conditions to play well in. I wouldn’t say there is a pressure attached to today, it is exciting because I have the opportunity to find myself a new club.”
The Exit Trials illustrates EFL’s commitment to support young players, with seven homegrown players now required on team sheets across all 72 clubs, whilst from 2017/18 at least one Club Developed player will need to be named on the teamsheet.