Ben Farmer aiming to cultivate next generation at Cambridge City
PUBLISHED: 17:00 29 October 2017 | UPDATED: 14:04 30 October 2017
Iliffe Media Ltd
Future looking promising at Lilywhites
Alex Lyratzopolous, Adam Capel and Josh Lowe are names to remember.
They may not yet be familiar to even the most ardent Cambridge City supporters, but they are players who symbolise a changing culture at the club.
The youngsters are all products of the Lilywhites’ youth scheme, and have been promoted to the first-team squad this season.
It is all part of a different approach at City to bring all parts of the club together, under the instructions of manager Robbie Nightingale.
And tasked with overseeing the many levels leading to the first team, and keeping Nightingale abreast of developments, is Ben Farmer.
The former Great Shelford player became City’s head of youth development at the end of May, replacing Paul Neary in the role.
“It’s a great set-up without it being full-time,” said Farmer. “It’s part-time, and there are a lot of clubs around us with a full-time set-up in terms of scholarship schemes.
“We’re really competing with that, and the success the youth set-up has had in the last year has been brilliant. It’s just continuing the good work that people have done before me.”
City’s under-18s play in the Thurlow Nunn Youth League, against the likes of Histon and St Neots who run scholarship schemes, and their teams, ranging in age from under-13 to under-16, play in the Eastern Junior Alliance.
But their approach has reaped success in the past, including reaching the first-round proper of the FA Youth Cup in 2015, under Darren Woods.
They eventually went out to Mansfield Town, but two of that team – Charlie Woolfe and Benito Castiglione – went on to play for the first team.
“We’ve had seven players go on and represent the first team in the last four years, and for any youth set-up, whether it’s professional or part-time, that is a brilliant stat. We’re over the moon with it,” said Farmer.
“Of the current second years, we’ve had three under-18s who are in the first-team squad and have been at the start of the season.
“We had 10 lads training with the first team, including our goalkeepers, over pre-season and two of the younger lads in the first year of the under-18s have been involved in the first-team squad.
“We want to carry on the good work that we’ve done. Everyone gets a buzz when you see Robbie pick those young lads, whether it be just to get some experience on the bench or to be fully involved.
“We feel we are doing the right thing by them at the moment, and it’s giving everyone a bit of a buzz around the place.”
It will no doubt help the budding youngsters that Farmer and Nightingale have been associates for a little while.
Farmer, who holds a UEFA B licence, played for Great Shelford in the Kershaw League, and has been coaching since he was 24, guiding Mildenhall under-16s and also working with the county under-16s and 18s.
And he also has a connection with City, his mother’s uncle was former player Eddie Robinson while he used to go and watch the team during the period when Neil Harris was representing the Lilywhites.
“I’ve always been involved with youth football. City is a big club around this way and to get that opportunity to work with such a good set-up is something that I couldn’t turn down,” he said.
“Robbie wants to know a lot about the 16s and 18s because obviously they are the ones he will be in direct contact with.
“We’ve now got a development team within the Kershaw set-up which we felt was pivotal to help the youth set-up because it gives them a step before they are chucked right in the first team.
“They play in the Kershaw Premier League, used to be the reserves, but are now the development team.
“They will be fielding a lot of young players throughout the season, giving them an experience in men’s football.
“Robbie does like to know what’s going on there, and we’ve got some really successful and good young players, and other even younger ones. It’s exciting times for the youth set-up at City.”