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From non-league youth set-up to Premier League academy


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Youth team manager Alan Connell has described as “pretty remarkable” the rapid rise of AFC Bournemouth summer recruit Ben Greenwood.

Defender Greenwood (pictured) has been catapulted from the youth ranks of non-league Fleet Spurs to the Cherries’ academy in just a matter of months.

The 17-year-old, who was playing in Division One of the Combined Counties League last season, earned his place after impressing Connell and his staff during a trial.

Since arriving at Vitality Stadium at the start of the season, Greenwood, who was handed a two-year scholarship, has trained with Eddie Howe’s first-team squad.

Born in Frimley and raised in Aldershot, cultured left-back Greenwood has been capped by England schoolboys and also had trials at Chelsea, Arsenal and Watford.

Greenwood played his part in the Cherries’ resounding 5-0 win over Bristol Rovers in the EFL Youth Alliance today and is set to feature when they host Yeovil in the EFL Youth Alliance Cup on Tuesday.

Connell told afcb.co.uk: “When we were planning ahead last season, we were looking at the position of left-back and Carl Robson, head of our academy recruitment, brought him to our attention.

“He has played for England schoolboys which is a good level for players outside of the academy system. He also had an eight-week trial at Chelsea and was unfortunate not to get offered something there.

“We thought he would be well worth a look and, straightaway, we were pleasantly surprised.

“He has never had any coaching at academy level but he has looked the part from day one. With the work we thought we could put into him, we felt he would improve and we feel he has.

“He trained with the first team during the second week of pre-season and coped fine with that as well.

“To have gone from playing schools football to training with our first team in the space of a few months is a pretty remarkable journey.

“Ben is very level headed and has been really solid and reliable in games. We demand a lot physically from our full-backs and he ticks all those boxes so we’ve been really pleased with him. How far he can go is up to him but he’s shown some good signs.”

Put to him that there were pros and cons of not having come through an academy set-up, Connell replied: “I think it’s different for every individual. For some players, it can make them hungrier and more mature.

"A lot of the academy environment can be about short, sharp passing, whereas, as a defender coming from a non-league background, you have to get used to dealing defensively with a direct approach. 

“We try to give the boys the best possible balance. We want to play passing football but we also want them to learn to deal with the long ball which they might have to do in their careers.

“Ben has that balance, he looks like a well-rounded footballer and ticks a lot of boxes. He’s good at a lot of things and we want to make him very good at those things so that’s the challenge for him and us.”

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