Russell and Mills up for the cup
Rio Russell and Keyni Mills will be gunning for national title glory when they line up in the Under-15 Small Schools Cup final at The Hawthorns, the home of West Bromwich Albion.
Victory against opponents De La Salle on May 22, would cap off a promising year for the Bermudian pair as they continue their football education at the highly regarded Langley School in London, South Norfolk.
The pair are coming to the end of their first academic year with the school and have thrived within the structure of its football academy headed up by former Norwich City striker Grant Holt.
“Both boys have done fantastically well,” said Andrew Walker, the deputy head teacher, who is in charge of sport and partnerships. “Rio is in his second year in English education system and this is Keyni’s first year off of the island. The under-15 team have done particularly well this year and both boys have been key players for the team.
“The tournament is a season-long event and started with the first round back in September. There would have been hundreds of schools across the age groups taking part and typically we need to win between five or six games to reach the final, so it shows you how well the team has done to get this far.
“Our programme has gone from strength to strength, this will be the fourth year in a row that we’ve had a team from Langley reach a school final.
“The reward for the under-15 team is that they will have the opportunity to play at a 27,000 capacity stadium and that will be great for all the boys involved.”
Reflecting on the boys progression, Walker believes they are in the perfect environment to continue their development.
“Individually, both had very good skills and athleticism but a key thing they’ve developed while here is the tactical elements to the game,” he added.
“They are also both part of the national set-up in Bermuda so their talent is clear to see. However, with us they have had the chance to play in more 11-a-side matches so their awareness and game play has developed.
“The other key area we can improve here is physical conditioning. We have a full-time strength and conditioning coach and physio. Any small margin of advantage we can gain is key.”
As well as personal development, the boys are also on a course which could aid them professionally with the school’s strong links to Sky Bet Championship side Norwich City, who have achieved promotion to the Premier League this season.
“They are both members of our in-house football academy, which is the official education partner of Norwich City football club,” Walker said.
“In terms of football, our ties are great. The ultimate aim of the school is to have a clear pathway through to Norwich City and try and get the boys involved with a professional club.
“Because of our tie to Norwich, all of the boys have a chance to be scouted and watched and so we aim to give the players the closest experience of a professional academy to aid their development.
“Traditionally students will focus on sports or the education, but our key philosophy is to provide both. That means that one way or another all of our students will have the best chance to excel in our professional capacity.
“Our philosophies of sporting excellence and strong academics seems like an excellent fit with Bermuda and that route for children to come and continue their development is a great match.”
n The Under-15 Small Schools Cup final match between Langley School and De La Salle on Wednesday, May 22 at 11.30am, will be streamed live on the English Schools Football Association’s YouTube channel.
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