'Win over Reading one of academy's finest ever results'

Albion defeated Reading in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy last 16 on Tuesday.

By Charlie Hanson • 11 January 2024

By Paul Hazlewood
Albion reached the last eight of the EFL Trophy for the first time, after they defeated Reading.

Albion academy manager Ian Buckman has hailed the under-21s’ win over Reading in the EFL Trophy as one of the best ever results for the academy.

They secured their place in the last eight – the furthest they have ever gone in the competition – having played out a goalless 90 minutes against the Royals at the Amex on Tuesday, before winning 3-2 on penalties with 15-year-old Harry Howell scoring the all-important spot-kick.

“It’s right up there with the best results we’ve had,” Buckman reflected. “Over our transition from a Centre of Excellence, to a category two, to a category one academy, and the work that goes in over the years, you look back at certain games where there’s been milestones for us. 

“The significance of Tuesday is that it’s another step forward in a competition where we haven’t been that far before. We’re doing it with a much younger group than we’ve ever had before, as typified by 15 year-old Harry Howell scoring the winning penalty. 

By Paul Hazlewood
Harry Howell showed his composure from the spot to slot home the winning penalty.

“These are great benchmarks for us to assess where we have been on our journey. It’s a great night for the academy generally. Obviously we’re very proud of the players that are in the first team at the moment, but our academy work is a constant evolution of ten teams over a decade between the ages of under-9s up to under-21s. 

“All of those years are important because all the groundwork for nights like Tuesday comes from the work that goes on prior to it. 

“Some of the players that were involved would have been away at tournaments with us in the foundation phase when they were in the under-10s, 11s and 12s and would have progressed through Premier League tournaments in the Youth Development Phase.”


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EFL Trophy Highlights: Brighton 0 Reading 0 (3-2 on pens)

If you were to combine all the time spent in the Albion academy by the 18-player squad on Tuesday night, it would come to 76 years – averaging just over four seasons per player.

“If you look back over the years, we had the team that was promoted from Premier League 2 Division 2 to the top tier which was great,” Buckman added. “We had some significant progress at that time, but quite a few of those players had come into the system at a later time. 

“Viktor Gyokeres, Jayson Molumby and Robert Sanchez were a big part of our academy, but they came in the latter stages of the Youth Development Phase. We still have strong recruitment and add players to our programme, but the pleasing thing is that more and more are coming through from an earlier stage in the programme at the Anerican Express Elite Performance Centre in Lancing. 

By Paul Hazlewood
Academy manager Ian Buckman.

“You look at Jack Hinshelwood as an example of someone who came through all the way through the pre-academy system, Josh Duffus has been with us for a long time and is now involved in the first team. 

“Tom McGill has been through the entire system. The younger members of the group such as Harry [Howell] and Freddie [Simmonds] have followed that same journey and been with us since those young ages. It’s a really proud moment for everyone. 

“That’s a lot of work from a lot of people over a long period of time. It shows the club’s commitment and their support of the academy. We’re very fortunate that we have a club who not only supports their academy, but really instils a belief and a pathway that’s very real. 

“Now we have some role models that the other players can follow and see living their dreams.”

The Bristol Street Motors Trophy quarter-final draw will take place live on Sky Sports News at 6.30pm on Friday 12 January.