Wanderers’ latest batch of young professionals are looking forward to the chance to continue their career paths with the Whites.
Five graduates from the Wanderers’ Academy will start out life as professionals when they return for the start of pre-season training.
The quintet – left-back Max Conway, midfielders Arran Pettifer and Matthew Tweedley, goalkeeper Ellis Litherland and defender/striker Lamine Toure – have all been awarded first professional contracts.
The five have progressed through the Whites’ Academy age groups and will now take the next step to help form the nucleus of Wanderers' new-look ‘B’ squad to further their development and try and stay in the eye of first-team boss Ian Evatt.
Max Conway has already worked with Evatt's senior squad and was named on the bench for the final League One game of last season as the fast-finishing Whites made it eight games without defeat.
Max (above) said: “I think me, Matty and Arran have been together since we were seven, so it’s good to come through it together and get through this far and get a contract. I’m delighted.
“It was a great experience being in and around the first team, travelling to away games and things like that which push you on even more to make the breakthrough.
“I was on the bench in the Papa John’s Trophy a few times last season as well, without getting the chance to get on, but hopefully that will be different this year.
“Having the B team will give us a chance to get some games in. I think there’ll be quite a few games we can play in and if there are players in between the two it would be good to possibly train with the first team at times and get games in the B team.
“I think the project going on at Bolton is as good as anywhere. It’s a winning environment and I think the only way is up from here.”
Arran Pettifer also supplemented the first-team squad in the middle of last season and made two appearances off the bench in the Papa John’s Trophy.
Arran (above) said: “I’m over the moon. I’ve been at the club since I was seven years old and it’s a dream come true to sign my first pro deal at this club.
“There’s four of us signing our first pro deals that have been together since about that age. It’s not just great that I’m signing a contract but it’s also great to see my mates signing too. We’ve all come on this journey together and hopefully we can continue together.
“It’s everything you work towards when you sign as a young lad and sign your contracts through the years. The ultimate end goal is to get your first professional contract and I couldn’t think of anywhere better to do that.
“The experiences I’ve had in and around the first team have helped me come on leaps and bounds. It’s now just about working hard to show what I can do.
“Over the last year being in and around the squad, the gaffer has helped me massively. Pete (Atherton) and Hirdy (Sam Hird) have helped me with my development and some of the experienced players as well with their advice. Being in and around that environment has already helped me to develop as a player.”
Matthew Tweedley also figured on the bench at points last season and featured as a late substitute in a Papa John’s Trophy win over Fleetwood in November.
Matty, (above) who first joined the Whites’ Academy set-up at the age of five, said: “It means a lot. I’ve been working for it for so many years and it’s been the dream since I first came, so I was buzzing to be able to sign.
“I’ve been on the bench a few times and just looking at the dressing room and watching it from the bench just makes you want to be on that pitch even more.
“I got a taste of it with the Reserves last year and played a few B teams, like Huddersfield.
“Their set-up was good and I think we can definitely push on with our B team with a few signings and get a good group together.
“It feels like the club's on the up and feels like it has been for the last two years, so I think it’s a really good place to be for my development and to become a better player.”
Lamine Toure joined Wanderers at U12 level and has since progressed as a powerful central defender, capable of playing as a striker and scoring regularly at youth-team level.
Lamine (above) said: “I’m lucky I’ve had opportunities to play in both positions. It’s great scoring goals. That feeling is great but I also have this thing where I love defending.
“I still can’t believe it. I’ve not stopped smiling since I’ve been offered my contract. It looks like my dream is just slowly starting to come true.
“When you’re a child you just want to be a professional. The journey has been hard and there are ups and downs but I’m really delighted to have been offered a pro and signed my first contract. Hopefully this is the start.
“I think the ‘B’ team is a great pathway. From U18s to playing in the first team, where there is so much pressure, is a big jump, so hopefully the ‘B’ team will be a bridge to get us ready for those challenges. It’s a good thing.”
Goalkeeper Ellis Litherland has been with Wanderers’ since the U9s and earns his chance to follow recent goalkeeper graduate Luke Hutchinson into the pro ranks.
Ellis (above) said: “It’s everything I’ve been working towards since I joined the Academy – especially the last two years.
“It’s been my main focus so to get a contract was excellent.
“We’re all good friends, so it’s good to sign with everyone and hopefully see a lot of them next season.
“The step from U18s to first team can be quite daunting for some players, so that it’s good to have something like the ‘B’ team to bridge that gap and hopefully we can play a few games next season.
“There are a lot of good keepers and coaches here so hopefully we can push each other on.”