AFC Sudbury Academy chief Danny Laws proud to see Liam Bennett and Tyler French shining with Wrexham and Cambridge United
Danny Laws will take his seat at Wembley Stadium on Sunday for the Buildbase FA Trophy final brimming with pride as his former pupils continue to take AFC Sudbury Academy’s work to exciting new heights in the game.
He will be there hoping to see one of the club’s first batch of full-time students try and get his hands on a major piece of silverware at the national stadium.
The Yellows’ academy director will be watching Long Melford-raised Tyler French in action in Wrexham’s defence, alongside his die-hard Dragons-supporting next-door neighbour, as they go up against Bromley (4.15pm).
“I am well chuffed for Tyler,” he said of the player who joined from Hadleigh United’s under-16s and went on to captain the AFC Sudbury first team aged 17.
“He’s got himself out there in the football world with Bradford then Fylde and off to Wrexham so it’s not been easy to watch him since he graduated from our programme, but the chance to watch him at Wembley will be great.”
It comes in a week where he has also been full of pride for a later graduate making his name in the professional ranks, with Great Cornard’s Liam Bennett handed a new two-year contract at League One outfit Cambridge United.
“What a story,” Laws remarked. “He has been down to the ground twice this week on his bicycle as he is a client of Ben Tracey who has a personal trainer business that uses our gym.
“It’s an old bike that doesn’t require locking up as no-one would want to nick it so I’ve been giving his some stick saying ‘you’ve got a new deal now Liam, isn’t it time you got yourself a decent bike?’
“He’s a great kid and his determination and perseverance is getting him places but he is also keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
“He made 10 appearances last season and five in League One which is incredible and there were a number (two league) in which he was man of the match.
“I watched a few on TV and he is doing really well.”
Laws said the 20-year-old asked his advice last summer on where he could improve.
“I said maybe your physical shape is something you can work on a bit,” he said. “And his body shape has changed, that’s for sure.
“He isn’t a beast though and he still has that great engine he is known for.
“He told me his personal best for 5k and it would certainly win my Parkrun, it’s ridiculous!”
He added Bennett remains good friends with academy third-year goalkeeper Josh Blunkell, but also makes time for the younger students to pass on advice.
Elsewhere, Ollie Peters has earned himself a new contract with Step 3 side Bishop’s Stortford after impressing since February after returning from America where Joe Wright and Callum Watson have both just graduated and are assessing their options.
His attention will turn to French this weekend though and next weekend as he enters the National League Play-Offs next Saturday at the semi-final stage, having finished second.
“I think Dave Cannon (fellow academy coach) is trying to get over to watch that one, but sadly I can’t make it,” he said.
Former academy player Ross Crane and loanee forward Olla Bello were on a list of eight under-23s that Ipswich Town revealed will be released this summer.
Presentation day rewards students
Meanwhile, the current batch of AFC Sudbury Academy students were celebrated at a presentation day last Saturday.
Of the boys’ section Bobby Rea received the Players’ Player award from the first years with Ryan Dunne getting the outstanding achievement.
In the second year it was first-team regular Josh Stokes up picked up the Players’ Player and Cameron Strachan who took the outstanding achievement.
It was announced Jack Ladbrook will captain the boys academy in 2022/23.
For the girls academy, Alex Penny claim the first year’s players’ player award with Ali Lambe the outstanding achievement. In the second years Amber Provan was players’ player and Ellie Newman got the outstanding achievement.
Leonnie Bezzant was named as girls academy captain for 2022/23.
Women take aim at treble
AFC Sudbury Women wrapped up the Eastern Region Women’s Division One South title on Tuesday – and this weekend will see Luke Mallett’s side look to complete a treble.
The recently-crowned Suffolk Women’s Cup champions approached their final two catch-up league matches knowing two victories would be enough to overtake Cheshunt and claim the title and promotion back to the Premier Division.
Billericay Town Women Development could not raise a side on Sunday leading to a home walkover.
The all-important next victory was sealed on their pitch on Tuesday evening with East Bergholt United Junior & Women’s F. beaten 8-0.
Jessica Allen scored four times with the others coming from Kate Edwards, Phoebe Guiver, Holly Kennard and Alex Penny.
Sunday sees Mallett’s side look to add a third trophy when they take on Hutton Women in the League Plate at Haverhill Rovers’ New Croft (2pm).
Meanwhile, first-half goals from Ruby Sealey and Penny (pictured) had put AFC Sudbury Girls Academy 2-0 up in their ESFA U18 Women’s Super League Final at Stoke City FC last Thursday. But Park View were able to get back to 2-2 before a late goal saw them break AFC hearts.