Centre back Callum Walmsley has become the first Shadow Scholarship player to sign a professional scholarship with the Barnsley FC Academy.
The 16-year-old has signed with the Reds less than six months after the start of the programme’s inaugural season.
Callum had been offered a two-year scholarship with another professional club but, instead, opted to join Reds in the Community’s Shadow Scholarship.
That bold decision has now paid off for Callum, who will progress into the Academy setup of his local football club whilst continuing his education with RitC.
Callum was understandably delighted to be signing for his boyhood club and pleased that he could continue his education with the charity.
He said: “I’m extremely delighted considering it’s a club I’ve supported since I was young. It’s always what you want – to play for a team you support and a team that you really care about.
“I’ll still get the best of everything. Obviously education is very important to me. I still want that other side as well, so being able to do that is giving me a variety really. Even though my main focus is obviously to try and become a footballer, it’s still good to have the other part [education] as a backup for me.”
Since joining the Shadow Scholarship programme, Callum has been a regular at the heart of the defence.
Alongside impressing the hierarchy at the Barnsley FC Academy, he was also named alongside fellow defender Dom Claxton in the National Football Youth League All-Star National Squad.
Education Lead Player Development Coach Mark Tinker, who heads up the programme, was full of praise for Callum.
He said: “I think it’s a perfect example of the Shadow Squad working. From the start, we didn’t promise anybody that this would be the case. However, we’ve put players on a platform now and given them the opportunity with the strength of the link between the Football Club, in order to make this happen.
“Callum’s exceptional in terms of his attitude and willingness to learn. That was always clear from day one. We have selected players to go down and train with the professional Academy on a weekly basis. From there, the Academy coaches can assess things in terms of their development.”
Barnsley FC Academy Manager Bobby Hassell explained how Callum’s chance surfaced and the benefits that the Reds have enjoyed since the launch of Reds in the Community’s Shadow Scholarship.
He said: “This is what it was designed for. When Mark approached us with this programme at the start of the season we were fully behind it as a Football Club and an Academy for this very purpose. Callum’s come in and done particularly well in all the games. It’s landed at a good spot for him in terms of we needed another centre-half. It’s been fortunate for Callum but he’s grabbed that chance and he’s fully deserved his scholarship. It’s showed the benefits of having Shadow Squads not only at our club but at other clubs as well.
“A lot of the time it’s chance. I made my debut through chance at 16 and Callum’s come in through the opportunity that we needed another centre-half. Callum’s come in and fit the profile of what we are looking for. He’s got a lot of development and hard work which he knows.”
The Shadow Scholarship programme, which is run in partnership with Barnsley FC, Barnsley College and Independent Training Services, allows a combination of ex-academy players and other local talents to progress their footballing ability by training daily in a professional environment.
Alongside this, shadow scholars study on Reds in the Community’s well-established education courses, gaining either a BTEC, or a foundation degree in football coaching.
Reds in the Community are running open trials for the 2019/20 season with the Shadow Scholarship programme on Saturday 23 February.
Aged 16-19 and interested in progressing your footballing ability whilst studying on an equally professional education setup? Click HERE to secure your place on the trials.