Gap Connah's Quay: 'We're striving to produce more players'

Chris Coleman with players from Connah's Quay academy
Wales manager Chris Coleman with Connah's Quay director of football Jay Catton, manager Andy Morrison and academy players at the official opening of the club's 3G pitch in January 2016.

In an area known for its industry, Connah's Quay is fast developing a production line in young footballers.

Levent Gundogan's move from Gap Connah's Quay to Manchester United has created headlines and highlighted the success of the Welsh club's academy.

The 14-year-old is the 29th Nomads academy player to have been signed by a professional club in the last seven years.

"We strive to be the best and to produce as many players as possible to move on to pro clubs," Nomads director of football Jay Catton said.

A member of Welsh Premier League club's Under-14 academy side, he scored four goals for North Wales' development squad in a friendly against United at the club's Carrington training complex earlier this year.

His performance earned him a six week trial, at the end of which he was offered a full time contract with the Old Trafford club's academy, who have former Red Devils and England midfielder Nicky Butt in charge.

"He's a fantastic boy with a great attitude and always wanting to learn and to progress since joining our academy," Catton said of Gundogan.

Levent Gundogan
Levent Gundogan has been a member Connah's Quay's academy for the past two years

"He was a midfielder that we converted into more forward role.

"He's a strong, athletic player who has got very good qualities. He can finish, head the ball and in the last 12 months has pushed on with his game.

"He's got an opportunity now with a contract to try and cement a place there in the future."

Liverpool, Stoke City, Wigan Athletic and Wrexham are among the other clubs to have signed players from Nomads' academy, who have also provided players for the club's first team in the Welsh Premier League.

"We're hoping that over the next few years that number will grow," Catton told BBC Radio Wales Sport.

"We started seven years ago with one team, playing on a local grass pitch, and literally from there it's grown and grown.

"The club's owner Gary Dewhurst has invested in the academy with the 3G pitch and general support as well as the ingoing development of all the coaches with the Welsh FA.

"That's culminated in a fantastic and very, very strong academy that's continuously striving to produce more and more players who can play in the professional game and if not represent our first team.

Rhys Healey
Rhys Healey suffered a serious knee injury in his first home league start for Cardiff

Rhys Healey is the highest profile graduate of the Flintshire club's academy.

Healey was 18 when he joined Cardiff City for an undisclosed fee in January 2013 and then Bluebirds boss Malky Mackay spoke of the striker's "huge potential."

Following loan spells at Colchester United, Dundee and Newport County, Healey has made his first team breakthrough this season under manager Neil Warnock.

His first goal was the winner in a 1-0 victory over Burton Albion in the Championship, but he faces a nine month lay-off with a serious knee injury he suffered in the victory against Rotherham.

Catton said he had no doubt Manchester-born Healey would succeed at a higher level.

"He's testament to the hard work that you have to do to get that opportunity and has done really well," Catton added.

"The only unfortunate thing is the injury he picked up a few weeks ago which I think will keep him out for nine months.

"But I've no doubt Rhys will come back stronger from that and will be a Cardiff City regular and a very successful professional footballer."

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