A FOOTBALL club has pledged to give more talented young players the opportunity to play in its first team.

Shildon AFC chairman David Dent set out plans to grow the club into the wider community in October 2018, with the appointment of a new sporting director Martin Gray.

With a new structure now in place, Mr Dent said: “Martin is now in a position to identify any young players who have reached a point in their football career where they would benefit from, and be put forward to play with the first team.”

Ten young players are currently associated with the Ebac Northern League side's first team– Aaron Duell, Dominic Curl, Aidan Heywood, Brad Hird and Dane Eltringham who are under 21 and 16-year-olds Ben Reay, Stevie Johnson, Mason Hurworth, Oscar Eckley-Aldsworth and Liam Waters. The four youngest players have all come through a training programme with the Martin Gray Football Academy.

Shildon manager Daniel Moore took the decision to play Mason Hurworth and Stevie Johnson at the Durham Challenge Cup quarter final which they won with an impressive 6-1 victory against Consett AFC.Mr Moore said: “Both myself and assistant manager Mark Hudson have worked hard with these young lads in all aspects of the game.

"The aim is to give them a platform to work hard, thrive and achieve their goals. I want to add to the professionalism of the current senior members of the squad such as Matty Robson and Dale Mulligan.

"They have been brilliant when working with the young players and being able to be around such characters will only develop them even more.”