Northern Premier League Football Academy star Lewis Brown has become the seventh youngster to step up and play in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
The 17-year-old and his coaches at the Gladiators were congratulated by the NPLFA this week after he came off the bench to play in Matlock Town’s 2-0 defeat at Stamford last weekend.
The Sheffield-based teenager also became the Premier Division club’s first NPLFA graduate when he came on as a late substitute at the Zeeco Stadium.
Brown had been in a great form before his call-up by Gladiators boss Mark Hulme, bagging ten goals so far this season for his second-placed side in the NPL Youth League to play a key role in a title-challenge which looks like going all the way to the wire.
Congratulating the youngster on making his first team debut, an NPLFA spokesman said: “It’s no surprise that Lewis has made his semi-professional bow, he has impressed everyone all season.
“All credit must go to Steve Heath and Jamie Yates at Matlock for developing him much earlier than expected and we hope the experience he gained will be valuable for his footballing career for which he has a big future.”
Launched in 2014 at five pilot clubs, the ground-breaking NPLFA is expanding to 12 clubs in September. Since opening, the Evo-Stik NPL has been widely hailed for becoming the first league in English football to operate a youth league and academy combining football with further education.
Well over 200 students are expected to be studying on two year courses for Level 3 Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) qualifications when the NPLFA’s clubs welcome next season’s intake in September.
While studying, students also train on a daily basis with UEFA qualified coaches and compete in the NPL Youth League and national competitions like the FA Youth Cup.
The NPLFA’s nine current clubs are Belper Town, Leek Town, Kidsgrove Athletic, Matlock Town, Mickleover Sports, Mossley AFC, Radcliffe Borough, Sutton Coldfield Town and Warrington Town. Witton Albion and Lancaster City have already successfully applied to join next season with a third club expected to be unveiled soon.