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Five more on Ilkeston production line

Several Bermuda footballers are hoping to follow Rai Simons through the Ilkeston FC academy programme and into the professional game in England.

The non-league club have catered to a number of Bermudian youngsters over the past few years, including Antwan Russell and Lejuan Simmons who are now back in Bermuda playing for Robin Hood.

However, the most successful of them so far is Rai Simons who spent two years at the Derbyshire club before signing for Chesterfield of League One earlier this year. He has already made an impression after breaking into the first team and scoring three goals.

There are five Bermudians — Jahquille Hill, David Jones Jr, Tehvan Tyrell, J'Nai Butterfield Steede and Paul Douglas — at the Ilkeston Academy, enrolled in educational courses as a part of the full time academy programme, and dreaming big dreams of becoming professional footballers.

Simons helped the Ilkeston Academy to a long run in the youth FA Cup before being called into their first team, and eventually earning a move to Chesterfield where he signed a two-year contract at the end of last season.

He first went to England as a 15-year-old and initially stayed in Stoke with Dale Eve, the Bermuda goalkeeper, and his older sister. Simons joined Ilkeston in the summer of 2013 as a 17-year-old.

The Bermuda-Ilikeston connection is possible through Paul Scope's contacts in Britain.

Scope was involved with the Bermuda Hogges with former professionals Shaun Goater and Kyle Lightbourne, and now Scope is looking to create a recognised pathway towards professional football for Bermuda's promising players.

Simons has been the most successful beneficiary of the link-up to date, while Russell and Simmons helped to lay the foundation for local players joining the club.

The players there are playing with the academy teams, and are called into training and matches with the first team and reserves.

Douglas is the most recent Bermuda arrival at Ilkeston Academy and is settling in after recently receiving his international clearance and becoming involved in more academy matches. A promising midfielder, Douglas had a trial at West Ham United a few years ago.

On Monday, Jones, a forward, came on late in the second half for his first team debut in Ilkeston's 2-1 loss to Long Eaton United in the Derbyshire Senior Cup.

Earlier in the day Tyrell grabbed three goals as the youth team, depleted by call ups to the first team, were beaten 7-3 away at GMeg.

Tyrell and Jones have both been in impressive goalscoring form for the youth teams. Jones's performances have earned him a call into the first team training sessions. Hill trains regularly with the first team and has been contesting a place as a reserve goalkeeper.

Butterfield Steede is a left-sided player who is making progress in the academy teams with his strong work ethic and positive attitude.

J'Nai Butterfield Steede in action for Ilkeston Academy team (Photograph by Craig Lamont/Ilkeston FC)

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Published December 09, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 08, 2015 at 10:49 pm)

Five more on Ilkeston production line

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