Under-18s’ goal machine Benjani Junior is a player the club is looking to challenge for a place in the first-team squad next season, according to head coach Matt Percival.

The striker was one of a number of youngsters who was involved as part of the first-team squad in last season’s Somerset Premier Cup campaign and has been prolific for the Under-18s in the Somerset County Youth League (SWCYL).

Benjani Junior warming up during the Somerset Premier Cup tie with Cheddar.
Picture courtesy of YTFC.

He arrived at Huish Park last year following his release from the academy at Portsmouth where his father, Benjani Senior, is a club legend for his form which saw him make a £7.6m move from Fratton Park to Manchester City in 2008

Speaking to the latest edition of the Gloverscast, the coach said the striker’s father, now assistant manager for the Zimbabwe national team, had attended a number of the young Glovers’ matches.

Matt said: “His father has been to a couple of games, but he works for the Zimbabwe FA so he is out in Africa quite a lot.

When he has been to matches he is really supportive and he was a big part of us getting Benji and getting him involved with the programme.

He is an absolute machine when he plays for us, I think he scored about 25 goals in about 30 games, so he’s one that will have pressure put him to try and get in to the first team next year.

Whether it’s the Somerset Premier Cup or the National League, he’s someone we are looking to kick on.

Benjani is one of nine players from the Under-18s who featured in the SPC campaign along with  Ollie Haste, Korey Andrews, Fin Ridout, Jake Graziano, Mason Hunter, Sam Hodges, Callum Deemer.

They are all graduates of the Elite Player Development Programme (EPDP) which is run in partnership with Yeovil College and play in English Colleges FA (ECFA) South West League (South) in midweek fixtures on the 3G pitch at Huish Park, and represent the club in the SWCYL on Saturdays with games played at the first team’s training pitch at Alvington.

Matt told us that he hopes the arrival of former youth academy coaches Chris Hargreaves and Chris Todd in the club’s first team management set-up would further opportunities for his youngsters.

He said that he is hoping to model the Huish Park set-up on that established by Todd at Torquay United, who won the SWCYL league and cup double last season.

Matt added: “I try and base our model of where we are going on what Chris Todd did at Torquay because their academy closed five or six years ago.

Where they are now is where I aspire to be. I am sure we will get there, it will take a bit of time, but I am sure we will get there.”

You can hear our chat with Matt in full on the latest podcast, available – here.

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