Hamshaw: Rotherham Academy best it has ever been
Written by Simon Austin — September 25, 2018
ROTHERHAM UNITED Development Coach Matt Hamshaw believes the club’s Academy is in the best shape it has ever been.
The former Premier League player joined the Millers in October 2012 as lead development phase coach and has worked his way up to his current position.
He doubles up as first-team coach and is responsible for the passage of Academy players through to the senior side. That pathway has been well-trodden recently, with keeper Laurence Bilboe, defender Akeem Hinds, midfielder Ben Wiles and forward Joshua Kayode all involved with the first team set-up.
Earlier this month, Tyrone Lewthwaite scored a hat-trick for Northern Ireland Under-19s against Slovakia, with club team-mate Reece McGinley a member of the squad too. Defender Semi Ajayi has also played for Nigeria U20s.
“It's taken us a few years to build the Academy to where it is now but I do genuinely believe that we're in the best period that our youth system has ever been in," Hamshaw, who took up his current role in May 2017, told the club’s website.
“You have the likes of Laurence Bilboe, who came through the Academy, Jerry Yates, who is now out on loan (at Carlisle) and Ben Wiles, who has already played in the Championship and cup competitions.
“We've got Joshua Kayode and Akeem Hinds too and we have high hopes for those two as well. To have that many Academy players within a first-team group is credit to the work that the Academy has done to develop them to this stage.
“You want players to come here and believe they can break into our first team and I think we have that here. It may sound a bit romantic but we want the best young players in Rotherham to play for Rotherham.
"I’d like to think that the link has grown and grown over the years."
DEVELOPING STAFF AS WELL AS PLAYERS
There have been significant changes to Rotherham's Academy staff in the last year or so:
- Academy Manager: Richard Hairyes promoted from Head of Recruitment in July 2018.
- Head of Academy Coaching: John Williams appointed this summer after 33 years as Head of Education and Coach Development at Sheffield Wednesday.
- Head of Academy Recruitment: Thomas Bryan promoted in July after 11 months as lead scout. Replaced Peter Stewart, who had held the role since 1999.
- Head of Academy Physiotherapy: Mark Hoy appointed in July 2017 (he’s also an RNLI crew member).
Hamshaw, who was promoted to his current role in May 2017, emphasised that Rotherham are developing Academy staff as well as players, with Hairyes, Bryan and himself all promoted from within the ranks.
“I came through the system starting off as a part-time coach and I think that Academies have to produce staff as well as players,” he said.
“They're great human beings and the gaffer and other people at the club would not let them be here if they weren't. I deal with them all regularly and we really do trust everything they are doing to bring through the next generation of talent.
"I can assure everyone that the youth set-up is in the best hands it has ever been in.
“We've got great staff in the Academy, from Richard Hairyes as Academy Manager through to Mark Hoy, who has strengthened things off the pitch in the sports science department.
“Richard Hairyes hasn't been in post long but we've already seen an upturn in how the Academy is run and the levels at which the players are performing."
Rotherham placed 68th in our 2016/17 Academy Productivity Rankings - 25th out of the Category 3 clubs - but Hamshaw believes significant progress has been made recently.
“We’ve had a few England, Ireland and Wales scouts at games and I think it's a sign that as an Academy we're really developing and producing some players, who we believe we can try and integrate into the first team in the coming years.
“We've had the U14s and U15s getting opportunities in the youth team this year and some of the lads have even trained with us and that's a testament to all of their work that they are able to raise their standards to perform at the next level.”
Rotherham-born Hamshaw, the son of a miner and cleaner, knows what it’s like to be a teenage prodigy. At the age of 13, Alex Ferguson came to his house in the village of Rawmarsh to try and persuade him to sign for Manchester United.
“I’d had a week in Manchester and I stayed in a hotel," he told the Sheffield Star in an excellent interview earlier this year. "I played a game and scored five. We beat Celtic 9-0. Alex came to speak to my mum and dad. I wasn’t tempted. I was a bit of a home boy.”
Instead, he opted for nearby Sheffield Wednesday, making the bench at 16 and then his first-team debut at 17. A cruciate injury in 2002 hampered his career, but he ended up playing seven years for the Owls.
His time with the club included what has been described as one of Wednesday's greatest-ever goals - a length-of-the-pitch effort against Watford in December 2001 which you can above.
Now he is working for his hometown club, studying for his Uefa Pro Licence and admits to managerial aspirations of his own.