7 Elite Academy youngster Jon-Paul Cavanagh has taken a step towards a career in professional football by signing an academy contract with League One side Wigan Athletic.
The 14-year-old defender will continue this season training three times a week with Wigan, alongside weekend games and studying for qualifications.
7 Elite Academy coach Ste Mitchell – who previously had contact with the 2013 FA Cup winners – was asked if he knew of any defenders suitable for Wigan’s academy and thought of Jon-Paul straight away.
And following several trial sessions and games that were interrupted by the Covid pandemic, JP was offered a one-year deal in May 2021.
JP’s father, Dave Looby, is delighted to see him get the opportunity to train with the Latics.
He said: “JP is a great son, so this is an amazing chance for him to make that next step on the ladder with a superb club like Wigan.
“Last season, he was training two nights a week in Stadium Way in Wigan, 7pm till 9pm. This season, Wigan have introduced school day release, so his training is 3pm till 5pm. Then they study, eat their tea and rest, before training again from 7pm to 9pm.
“It’s a long day for him and his team-mates. He still does a day at school until 2pm and he’s given homework which he must bring with him. Wigan are very strict about that and rightly so.
“It’s a very busy schedule, as he also does 90 minutes training each Saturday morning, before games on a Sunday. But he absolutely loves it, and I am so happy for him.
“Wigan signed JP halfway through the contract cycle, so although he’s got one year at the moment, we’re hoping that if he continues to work hard, shows commitment and keeps learning he’ll possibly get a two-year contract at the end of this season.”
Dave believes JP’s potential was further enhanced by the excellent coaching and direction he was given by staff at 7 Elite Academy.
He added: “The coaching that JP received from Ste Mitchell, Anthony Godfrey, David Mayer and Rob Smith at 7 Elite Academy was on another level. Within the first few weeks, everyone could see improvements throughout the team, not just JP.
“The lads would work so hard at training sessions, but in a way that mirrors professional clubs. During games, the coaches would fill him with confidence and then talk him through the match itself.
“JP has always had confidence in his ability. Other parents and opposition teams would praise JP and his temperament, but it was the coaches at 7 Elite that really helped him to improve his game and without Ste Mitchell, we wouldn’t have had the contact with Wigan. We can’t thank him enough.
“7 Elite also showed us pathways for the players with education at age 16 and trips/tournaments to America, which some of the lads went on in 2020. From what I have seen on social media, I couldn’t recommend the academy enough.”
Ste Mitchell, coach of 7 Elite Academy Under-14s, is looking forward to seeing Jon-Paul make himself a career in professional football.
He said: “JP is a talented lad and has a very supportive family, so I knew early on he would be a good candidate for a place at Wigan’s academy. I’ve known him since he was five.
“It wasn’t easy to arrange trials during Covid lockdowns, but as soon as JP got the chance he grabbed it with both hands.
“I am so proud of what he’s done so far with Wigan, who really look after the players on all levels. They train well at Wigan, but a lot of emphasis is put on study for qualifications.
“There are no guarantees in football of course, but JP has very good chance to make the most of his talent.”
7 Elite Academy, which coaches thousands of youngsters in the UK, USA and Africa, has already seen numerous players sign contracts with professional clubs.
Anthony Godfrey, 7 Elite Academy Technical Director, said: “It is great news that JP has signed a contract with Wigan and he fully deserves this opportunity.
“We have contacts with professional clubs across football and we’re always looking to secure trials for players who show potential.”
“Our Player Pathway is designed to offer playing and education opportunities in the UK, but also with colleges in the United States that offer scholarships as well.”
“I want players at 7 Elite Academy to make the most of their talent, while securing the skills and prospects they need both inside and outside football.”