He’s been an academy manager at Blackpool and now Fleetwood Town, and Ciaran Donnelly says it is refreshing to work with a head coach in Joey Barton who practises what he preaches in terms of giving youth a chance.
Donnelly, 34, joined Fleetwood Town in 2017 after guiding Blackpool U18s to a league and cup double.
He worked with Paul Ince, Barry Ferguson, Jose Riga, Lee Clark, Neil McDonald and Gary Bowyer at Blackpool before a switch to Town saw him work with Uwe Rosler, John Sheridan and now Barton.
When Barton embarked on his first managerial role he spoke of his desire to build pathways to the first team for young players. And he has backed that up by making history, Nathan Sheron becoming the first Town academy player to represent the club in the EFL.
James Hill, 16, became the youngest ever player to feature for the first team at Leicester City in the League Cup last week and more of Town’s youngsters could get game time against Leicester’s U21s in the Checkatrade Trophy next Tuesday.
Donnelly said: “I’ve done this job at two clubs now over a period of six years under eight or nine managers.
“It is great to see somebody actually back up what they say about young players. It is refreshing.
“This guy (Barton) is absolutely itching to give young players a chance.
“I’ve said to the U18s, ‘He wants to give you a chance but he is not going to give it to you just because you are a young player. He is going to give it to lads who show the right attitude, who do things right around the place, show a professional attitude in training and perform well’.
“It is great to know that he has backed that up and the players now know it is not just words but actions. It is fantastic.”
Most of Town’s development squad left this summer, meaning the U18s are now the club’s flagship youth side.
Town have added another promising youngster to their ranks in Northern Ireland U17 midfielder Barry Baggley.
Donnelly praised his head of academy recruitment Scott Macneill but stressed he will not consider his job well done until he sees five or more academy products featuring for the first team.
He said: “Scott Macneill, who I brought in last year, has worked really hard on the recruitment.
“We have a number of hungry, ambitious players who we think could help this club to become the kind of model everyone is looking to, with five, six, seven academy-developed players in the first team. Then we will consider that we’ve done a good job.”