AFC Sudbury Academy director Danny Laws selects his All-time XI
In his role as director of AFC Sudbury’s highly successful academy operation, Danny Laws has seen a large number of talented players come through the ranks.
He’s previously refrained from picking an All-time XI of those that have graduated through the system, but now he has taken up the challenge.
Laws said: “Over the past couple of years I have been asked quite a few times to name my best starting XI from all the players we have had at the boys’ academy since our inception in 2015/16.
“I have always to this point refused as it would be unfair on players within the academy and quite frankly too hard a task! We have had so many good players with so many either playing in AFC Sudbury’s first team or beyond.
“Four of the teams have reached the proper rounds of the FA Youth Cup and all lost by one goal to a professional club and every year since we started we have been crowned Suffolk Under-18 champions, hence the difficult task!
“However, I will give the all-time best team a go! Just before the first name I will explain that this team doesn’t include any current academy players, including third years. (Lewis O’Malley and a few of the current under-18 front players would have given me a big headache).
“There is no set criteria, for example how high they are playing now or what they achieved when in the academy, just my feeling for why these particular players would play.
Danny Laws’ All-time Academy XI (4-3-3)
GK – Curtis Child (Academy 2015-17): Curtis is what I call a 7/10 goalkeeper. He does all the basics well. No particular strengths or weaknesses. He didn’t stand out for making the amazing saves but also he rarely made a mistake.
Above all else he is a leader, very mentally strong and a calming influence amongst his peers.
RB – Liam Bennett (Academy 2018-2020): Liam got better and better and this was down to his self dedication and willingness to be coached. So many opposition underestimated him and never thought our full-back would be our most influential player. Our surprise element both in defence and attack.
Some teams would look at him and target him as a weak link – the dug out would just have a secret smile at one another!
LB – Ross Crane (Academy 2018-19): Although Ross wouldn’t see himself as a left-back, in this system he was a special player in the year we played this way.
The shape was 4-3-3 out of possession but as soon as we attacked it was quickly 2-1-2-5 and Ross contributed so much offensively as a number three in this team.
A powerful player with a great left foot and ability to frighten teams.
RCB – Tyler French (Academy 2015-2018): We joked that quite often we would only need to play with one defender as long as Tyler was playing!
In the three years of academy football I never saw a player run in behind him, he was basically too fast. Such an athlete and such a great team player, absolutely loved winning football matches!
LCB – Baris Altintop (Academy 2017-2019): Baris would be comfortable playing on the left of the two centre-backs.
His defending was beyond his years and as partnerships go, when playing with Joe Grimwood it was formidable.
Baris is another winner and would look the part alongside Tyler.
CDM – Joe Wright (Academy 2015-2018): I mentioned earlier that the staff used to have a private joke that we could play with one at the back with Tyler French. Well, I had a private joke that we wouldn’t lose if Joe Wright was playing.
He was a complete number four, tenacious out of possession but calm and technically proficient in possession.
Joe has chosen the pathway of USA Soccer and was always a player appreciated by coaches more than supporters. Those who knew are well aware of the impact of this player.
CM – Oliver Peters - (Academy 2015-2018): Influential in both boxes, athleticism to go alongside his game understanding and a high level of discipline.
Ollie was like Curtis Child, he rarely went below or above a seven out of 10 but a coach’s dream to have in the team.
ACM – Callum Watson (Academy 2016-2018): Every midfield needs a game changer. Callum was a scorer and creator of many fantastic and important goals.
Another fierce competitor, he was brave in possession and a good runner with the ball. He also had a long throw that we utilised.
CF – Freddie King (Academy 2018-2020): The talisman. Often looked out of games or not involved enough, but Freddie (pictured left) had a great goal record for a player who often played as a lone striker.
He seemed to know when the right time was to turn it on and his dribbling ability for a big lad was frightening.
RCF – Jordan Blackwell (Academy 2015-2016): Jordi joined us for one year as a third year and played the whole season in the first team.
His work-rate and energy would be a perfect match with Liam behind him as a full-back – a perfect tandem.
LCF – Tom Maycock (Academy 2017-2019): Tom could dribble at speed and has a canny knack of arriving at the near post when we are attacking from the right.
A good finisher and great dribbler.