Emerging shot stoppers’ high praise for Gladiators academy

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Two of Matlock’s young goalkeepers have claimed that the coaching they are receiving in the young Gladiator set-up is some of the best around, writes Andrew Haines.

The No.1 jersey is highly sought-after and in Town’s development sector the position is rotated weekly due to the high quality of their two ‘keepers - Alfie Smith-Eccles and Jordan Pierrepont.

Both shot stoppers started with a similar footballing pedigree in terms of being involved in a professional club’s academy. For a time they shared the city of Sheffield, Smith-Eccles of a blue persuasion and Pierrepont of the red.

With both having been released from the Wednesday and United academies respectively, they then underwent interesting journeys before both arrived at Causeway Lane just over two years ago.

Smith-Eccles played for a host of clubs at youth level including Derby County, Nottingham Forest and Chesterfield before quitting football all together to focus on his GCSEs for what he believed would be permanent. But back enjoying his football, he gave a glowing endorsement of Matlock’s academy set-up.

“It’s brilliant, to say where Matlock are in the leagues it’s very professional,” he said. “Here, there is progression into the first team and reserves, whereas when I was at Wednesday it was just academy sides so you didn’t really get that strictness part of it, but here is up there with professionalism compared to Wednesday.”

Pierrepont echoed Smith-Eccles’ praise for the academy and the coaching. “I’d say it’s the best academy,” said Pierrepont. “Everything is set up perfectly for football, education, everything. They’ve got it to a t.

“It’s probably the best coaching that I’ve had since the early days at Sheffield United. Sol (Adam Sollit, a former professional) the ‘keeper trainer is very good at what he does, he’s been involved in the Matlock and Mickleover area as well so it’s better than a lot of academy goalkeeper coaching.”