Solihull Moors are quickly earning a reputation for top homegrown talent and two from the production line went on trial at Burnley last week.
Skipper Ethan Sephton and forward Keziah Martin both played in a friendly against Rangers as the Clarets took the chance to take a closer look at Solihull’s hot prospects.
The two youngsters admit the experience brought a few surprises but they were both encouraged by what they encountered at Turfmoor.
“It was really surprising,” Ethan said. “I thought it was going to be a hostile environment because that’s the kind of the impression you get.
“But it wasn’t like that at all, everyone looked after me and Kaz really well. They showed us great hospitality and the players made us feel really welcome.”
“The training ground and facilities were outstanding,” said Keziah. “The welcome we received was second to none.
“Everybody was incredibly humble, even though they are playing at a high level, they’re still very grounded.”
It wasn’t only the players’ attitudes that took Ethan and Keziah by surprise. Burnley’s direct style was something they had not accounted for.
“It’s surprisingly similar to that of Moors,” said Ethan. “It’s very direct, hitting the channels, playing to the front man early.
“Their philosophy is all about running, giving 110% and getting about the pitch. That’s something that we have learned here at Moors.”
“They are prepared to do the dirty side of the game,” said Keziah. “They’re happy to play the long ball when it’s on.
“I was not expecting them to put in such big tackles, to play ugly, I thought it would be all pretty, nice, technical football, but it wasn’t like that.”
“Academies are known for quick, technical play, which of course, was the case,” said Ethan.”But they also showed willingness and desire to put their foot in.
“Everyone has the impression that academy players don’t learn that side of the game, but a team like Burnley, who aren’t afraid to play a long ball, it’s a big part of their play.”
It was a big step up for Ethan and Keziah but they didn’t shy away from the challenge. The experience also made them realise how well Moors Academy has prepared them.
“Without doubt, Moors are turning us into better players and clearly the system is working,” said Ethan.
“They have provided us with a platform, a basic grounding, from which to build. It’s then up to the individual, us, to make something of it and I feel I have done just that.
“I was ready for the challenge. Even though it came out of nowhere, the work I have been doing here, especially in the last few months, really paid off.
“I have come into my own as a player, I have developed physically and mentally so it was the perfect time to test myself.”
“Playing non-league, against men, week in week out, has definitely helped me, “said Keziah. “You go into a place like Burnley, where they play direct and you feel comfortable.
“I am prepared for that side of the game and I was able to fit in straight away, I didn’t feel out of my depth at all.
“All in all, Solihull are doing a lot of things right in terms of helping us on the pathway to playing at the highest level.”
Now that the pair have a taste for top-flight football, their desire to reach the pinnacle has grown even stronger and they are even more determined to make it as professionals.
“Even being there just for a day, you can take so much from the experience,” said Ethan. “The training, the intensity, the whole environment, it’s a great place to learn.
“We now know what I need to do, we know we have what it takes, it’s just a matter of fine-tuning and refining elements of our game, so that we are well equipped for next time.”