Top English youth sides may have seen their games suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s still plenty going on.

Futbol Callander brings you the latest news from around the Premier League 2.

The Premier League 2 season was suspended in March with the rest of English football, with Chelsea top of the Premier League 2 and West Ham three points clear of Manchester United in the Premier League 2 Division 2.

Premier League clubs agreed to curtail the 2019/20 Academy Game Programme in May, from U9 up to U23 level.

Perhaps the biggest news to come out of English youth football in the last fortnight is Manchester City‘s signing of 18-year-old Juventus forward Pablo Moreno (pictured).

The Spaniard was prolific at Barcelona’s La Masia academy and moved to Turin in 2018. Moreno currently has three caps for Spain’s U18s and featured in the U17 squad for the U17 World Cup and Euros.

He featured on the bench for Juve’s Serie A meeting with Genoa this season, and scored four in three UEFA Youth League appearances for the Old Lady’s U19s.

Meanwhile, fifteen Crystal Palace players have earned two-year scholarships at the club’s academy, having won the U15s Super Floodlit Cup in 2019.

Palace have also announced this week that their academy has been granted Category One status – the highest possible category for English club academies.

Consequently, the Eagles’ U18s will compete in the Premier League South next season, while the U23s are promoted to the Premier League 2.

Their academy in Beckenham will be expanded to offer more to the local community, including an open-plan office and meeting space, four classrooms, a campus-style redesign of academy buildings, a new gym facility, fourteen dressing rooms and six extra pitches of varying sizes.

Chelsea have extended loans and contracts for three of their U23 players. Charlie Brown will remain on loan at Belgian second-division side Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, where the striker made three appearances since January, for the 2020/21 season.

Brown scored 20 in 31 appearances for the Blues’ youth sides in 2018/19.

Meanwhile, Jack Wakely and Jon Russell have signed one-year contract extensions to stay at Cobham. Chelsea’s U23s were three points clear at the top of the PL2 when football was suspended, with Wakely and Russell making 18 and 11 appearances respectively.

Richard Nartey has left Chelsea after 12 years, most recently making 29 appearances on loan at Burton Albion.

Teddy Jenks and Max Sanders have signed new contracts at Brighton, for three years and one year respectively. Eighteen-year-old Jenks made 12 appearances for the Seagulls’ PL2 side, and three in the Leasing.com Trophy.

Sanders made 22 appearances on loan at AFC Wimbledon before the League 1 season ended prematurely.

Derby County have brought several academy products into Philip Cocu’s first-team this season, and owner Mel Morris hopes to have 50% of the first-team squad comprised of Moor Farm graduates for the 2021/22 season.

The Rams squad that faced West Brom in the Championship on July 8 featured nine academy graduates, with substitute Max Bird taking the armband when he replaced Wayne Rooney. They seem to be on the right track but Cocu has had to reach into Darren Wassall’s Academy sides following injuries and suspensions.

Lee Buchanan, Jason Knight, Louie Sibley and Morgan Whittaker have all graduated from Justin Walker’s U18s to the first-team this season as Derby push for a third consecutive Championship playoff finish.

Derby’s new U19s side reached the UEFA Youth League Round of 16 in their first appearance in the competition, eventually exiting to RB Salzburg.

18-year-old Louie Sibley scored on his debut for Derby. Photo credit: dcfc.co.uk

Everton have handed out first professional contracts to four young players. Harry Hagan, Sean McAllister, Sebastian Kristensen and Sebastian Quirk have signed deals until the summer of 2022.

Horgan and Kristensen, both 17-year-old centre-backs, have featured regularly in the Toffees’ U18s side in the 2019/20 season.

Midfielder McAllister joined Everton from Dungannon Swifts in summer 2019, while Quirk has been at the club since he was 11.

A pathway to the first team seems to be emerging at Goodison since the restart of the Premier League: Anthony Gordon has played more regularly since the Merseyside derby, and Jarrad Branthwaite made his Toffees first-team debut off the bench in their 3-0 defeat to Wolves, having made Ancelotti’s squad more often as the league season draws to a close.

Blackburn Rovers have snapped up 18-year-old midfielder Tyrhys Dolan after he was released by Preston. Dolan has signed his first professional deal at Ewood Park, having been at Preston since leaving Manchester City’s youth ranks in 2017.

Southampton are no strangers to developing young talent, and two of their own have extended terms at St Mary’s.

Defender Oludare Olufunwa has signed a two-year contract extension until 2022, while former Arsenal man Nathan Tella will stay until 2023.

Tella made his debut against Norwich City this season, having suffered a knee injury before the U23s season was curtailed.

Several young Manchester United players are out of contract this summer, and will be leaving Old Trafford when their terms expire.

Aidan Barlow, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Alex Fojticek, Ethan Hamilton, Dion McGhee, Demi Mitchell, Kieran O’Hara, Largie Ramazani and George Tanner will now be looking for new clubs, but United have offered the players the option to complete pre-season training at the Red Devils’ Aon Training Complex to give them the best possible chance of finding a way back into the game elsewhere.

Borthwick-Jackson is perhaps the best-known of the departing players, having made his debut under Louis van Gaal and spending time on loan at Wolves, Leeds, Scunthorpe, Tranmere and Oldham.

Irish U21 international O’Hara spent the 2019/20 season on loan at League One Burton, having previously featured in the EFL for Morecambe and Macclesfield.

Finally, Middlesbrough have secured the signing of Irish U18 international Cole Kiernan from local rivals Sunderland, as the striker signs professional terms with Boro.

He scored five in 15 for Sunderland’s U18s, having joined from York City.

@FutbolCallander

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