Whelan, Bath and Peake win Eamonn Dolan Award for 2020

The trio have given 74 years' service to their respective clubs

The trio have given 74 years' service to their respective clubs

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MANCHESTER UNITED'S Tony Whelan, Chelsea's Neil Bath and Leicester City’s Trevor Peake have each received the 2020 Eamonn Dolan award for their exceptional contribution to Academy coaching.

The awards, now in their fourth year, are named after former Reading Academy Manager Dolan, who died from cancer in June 2016 at the age of 48.

The former Republic of Ireland Under-21 international had played a key role in developing the Royals' Academy into one of the finest in the country, with 32 players coming through the ranks to make first-team debuts on his watch.

Fittingly, his successor in the job, Lee Herron, was among the trio who won the inaugural Eamonn Dolan award in 2017.

The awards were introduced by the Premier League “to recognise an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to football coaching and/ or coach development within the Academy environment.”

This year’s trio are again true legends of youth development. Neil Bath has been Chelsea Academy Manager since 2004, during which time there have been almost 50 senior debuts from Academy products.

Two of them - Mason Mount and Reece James - started yesterday’s FA Cup final defeat by Arsenal.

Trevor Peake worked for Leicester City for 17 years before retiring as Under-18s coach at the end of last season. The FA Cup winner had helped to develop a raft of future pros, including current Leicester first-teamers Ben Chilwell, Harvey Barnes and Hamza Choudhury.

Eamonn Dolan Award - Previous Winners

  • 2017: Lee Herron (Reading), Dave Parnaby (Middlesbrough), Natalie Henderson (Newcastle)
  • 2018: Chris Ramsey (QPR), Steve Avory (Charlton)
  • 2019: John McDermott (Tottenham), Vic Bragg (Brighton)
  • 2020: Trevor Peake (Leicester City), Neil Bath (Chelsea), Tony Whelan (Manchester United)

Manchester United Academy programme adviser Tony Whelan started working for the Reds back in 1990, in their Centre of Excellence days, and has been a key custodian of the club's culture ever since.

True legends of the game have graduated from United’s Academy during his time with the club, including David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, while Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood are hoping to follow in their footsteps.

Here is more on the three winners:

Neil Bath

Bath joined the Chelsea schoolboys coaching staff in 1993 and became Academy manager in 2004. During that time he has overseen the most successful period in the history of the Blues’ Academy.

Following the FA Youth Cup triumph in 2010 - their first success in the tournament since 1961 - the Blues lifted the trophy in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

That feat of winning five years in a row had only been accomplished once before in the history of the competition, by the Manchester United Busby Babes side of the 1950s.

Chelsea were also crowned U21 Premier League champions in 2013/14 and won back-to-back Uefa Youth League titles in 2014/15 and 2015/16.

This feat of success at youth level is now also being matched by the progression of their homegrown players to the senior ranks under Frank Lampard.

An impressive 29% of Chelsea's Premier League minutes this season were played by Academy graduates, most of whom had signed for the club at the age of eight.

After winning the Eamonn Dolan Award, Bath said: "I'm very happy to be awarded personally but I also receive it on behalf of all the staff and players at the club because this is recognition of the work of many people.

"It's a very timely award because when you look at the minutes that our Academy has contributed to the men's first team, it will be the most we’ve had in modern history.

Over the years, we've always strived for players from the Academy to get more opportunities in the first team. However, in this particular year and under the management of Frank Lampard - who has been prepared to play and give them an opportunity if he feels they are deserving - it has been an incredibly successful season."

Bath also paid tribute to Dolan, whom he had known personally.

“Eamonn was a man who I knew well,” he said. “Whenever we played against each other, we would always meet prior to kick-off and have a cup of tea together. We would reach out to each other during the year and catch up.

“I know he was passionate about developing people as well as players so to receive an award in memory of Eamonn makes me very proud.”

Trevor Peake

The 63-year-old, who won the FA Cup as a player with Coventry City in 1987, joined Leicester’s Academy in 2003 and has helped them develop a host of top pros.

As Foxes' Academy Manager Ian Cawley told TGG: “Any player who has come through our system over the last 15 years, Trevor will have been a big part of their career path.”

That includes current first-teamers Harvey Barnes, Ben Chilwell and Hamza Choudhury, regarded as three of the brightest young English talents in the Premier League.

Former Celtic and Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, who worked with Peake at Coventry, said: “There are people who will tell you how they’re born winners, but Trevor has this humility about him.

“His job isn’t talking about himself but making other people better.”

On his watch, Leicester’s U18s won the Premier Academy League in 2006/7.

Peake, who retired at the end of the 2019/20 season, said: “It’s very much a family at Leicester City. I didn’t have an electric career as a player, but this is certainly the best club I’ve ever been involved with. It’s been incredible.”

Tony Whelan 

The 67-year-old came through the youth ranks at Manchester United and enjoyed a 16-year playing career as a player, although he never made a senior appearance for his beloved Reds.

However, Brian Kidd brought him back as an Academy coach in 1990 and he has remained with the club ever since.

Whelan’s title is now Academy programme adviser and former U18s coach Paul McGuinness described him as “the heartbeat of the United Academy for three decades.”

He added: “His expertise in childhood football development is so refined and natural that few would be able to see the sublimities of his work: the precise barometer to measure and create the perfect atmosphere for child development.”

The man himself said: “I’ve been privileged to work with some wonderful people over the years,. When you get awards, you think about the club itself and we're honoured to be the guardians of youth development here as it goes back a long way - to Sir Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy.

“We're following in their footsteps and are hopefully carrying the traditions forward. The young players still coming through are testament to this and a lot of people behind the scenes have made a contribution to that. I dedicate the award to them - the wonderful people who I work with at the club.”

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