Chester Football Club are delighted to announce that Academy Graduates Alex Downes, Rhain Hellawell, Iwan Murray and Matthew Thomson have all signed professional contracts for the 2018/19 campaign.
Downes, Hellawell and Thomson have signed one-year deals – whilst Murray has put pen to paper on a deal until January 2019; with the option of a further six months.
All four contracts have been funded once again thanks to the fantastic support of Ian Swettenham and everyone at Swettenham Chemists – who are our Academy’s Main Sponsors and also have the naming rights to our West Stand; pioneering the Family Zone.
Academy Head Coach, Calum McIntyre said: “I am delighted that these boys will have the opportunity to continue their development at Chester Football Club but I am equally pleased that the football club have acted swiftly in securing them on their first professional contract.
“In recent seasons, the Academy Graduates that have progressed into the first team have demonstrated their talents and we firmly believe that we continue to have a conveyor belt of talent ready to progress into the first team and beyond at Chester Football Club.
“Supporters will have seen Matthew Thomson at the back end of last season with Alex Downes and Rhain Hellawell also making substitute appearances in the final games of the National League season. Iwan Murray has had an outstanding season for the Youth Team and will no doubt catch the eye of plenty of Chester supporters.
“It is great news for everyone involved and my thanks to Swettenham Chemists for their continued support of this initiative. These boys realise the hard work starts now as they look to be the latest Academy Graduate to make a name for themselves at this football club.”
Downes, 18, is a defender and made his senior debut in the Cheshire Senior Cup against Hyde in January 2017 – before a National League debut as a sub away at Boreham Wood in April 2018.
Hellawell is a versatile midfield player – and joined the Blues in January 2017 after making first team appearances at Stockport Town in the North West Counties League. The 18-year-old made his Chester FC League debut as a sub against Maidstone at the Swansway Chester Stadium in April.
Matthew Thomson is also 18 and was snapped up following his release from Tranmere Rovers as an under-16. A right back, he played the full 90 minutes in our last two games of the 2017/18 season – against Maidstone and Barrow.
Iwan Murray is 17 years old and yet to feature for the first team. An attacking player, Iwan has been terrorising defences for the under 18’s this season – and scored the third goal in the National League U19 Alliance Cup Final win against FC Halifax at Walsall last month.
Ian Swettenham said: “Congratulations to Rhain, Alex, Matthew and Iwan on earning their first professional football contracts.
“It’s a great individual achievement, but also a mark of the continuing success of the Chester FC Youth Academy, led by Calum McIntyre and his team of volunteers. The scholarship programme sponsored by Swettenham Chemists is going from strength to strength.
“We now have four new graduates to join Nathan Brown and Matty Waters who are already signed for next season. The pathway for our young players is firmly established, providing them with great opportunities and the club with players to excite the crowd and maybe provide a financial bonus.
“I’m so pleased that the new managers fully support this model.
“This is a pivotal year as we discover how the Academy and its graduates fit into life in the National League North and I know they will do all they can to ensure our continued success.”
Congratulations, Alex, Rhain, Iwan and Matthew!