Former Tuffley Rovers man and Core Sports agent Alex O’Leary has talked to Severn Sport about the 12 months on from the JA Sports Management Exit Trials and has highlighted Bristol Rovers’ Michael Kelly, Chippenham Town’s Karnell Chambers and Hereford’s Keiran Thomas as stand-out players around the county this season.
O’Leary, who left Tuffley midway through the 2018/19 season, spoke to us just over a year after the then JA Sports Management Agency hosted an Exit Trials event at Glevum Park. Severn Sport joined nearly 100 players looking to impress scouts and coaches in attendance to earn trials and potential professional contracts with their display and the former Colchester United man can’t believe the progress the company has made since then.
“Can I believe it? Not in the slightest. It really has been an unbelievable 12 months for me and the guys at Core Sports. If you had said 12 months ago that we would be in the position that we are in within the marketplace then I’d have laughed in your face. I really couldn’t have asked for more from a business sense.
The Exit Trials last year provided players with that one moment. It gave us credibility as agents as people knew that Jamie and I had been there and done that and we were able to put on an event that was well structured and gave opportunities to a number of players.
Having coverage from Severn Sport and RIchard Joyce doing filming, it gave us that little bit extra on the day. There aren’t many companies out there that were able to offer an Exit Trials event that had full live commentary all day, as well as interviews with the players – so it was great to have and as a result we are where we are as a company.” O’Leary said.
O’Leary and business partner Jamie Strong saw their JA Sports Management gather interest and after a merger became Core Sports UK. Local players on their books include Bristol Rovers left back Michael Kelly, whose development O’Leary watched closely last season amidst strong transfer links during the season.
“Michael did very well. He got 30 games in League One at the age of 21, which gives him miles on the clock. I’m sure MIchael will go on to have a serious good career. He just needs to keep his feet on the ground as this is just the start for him.
There was a lot in the press that West Ham and Millwall (amongst others) were sniffing around, but Michael has a great chance to kick on for Bristol Rovers and make the number one left back slot his own. He is well on his way he just needs to stay motivated.” O’Leary added.
Former Gloucester City duo Karnell Chambers and Kieran Thomas were two players who O’Leary was quick to discuss after good seasons for Chippenham Town and Hereford respectively.
Chambers, who scored 11 goals for Town this season, is one of the most exciting players in non-league football currently, whilst Thomas has always drawn the plaudits at every club he has played at, Gloucester City and Cinderford Town in particular.
“Karnell had a fantastic year. Honestly, he is one of the most talked about wingers outside of the Football League. My phone won’t stop ringing with calls about him, it is incredible. All he needs is a club to turn their interest into taking a chance on him.
For me, Karnell has all the tools you need to make it in the Football League. If Karnell get’s a year playing in full-time football then he will go all the way, he has got everything!”
Keiran Thomas was another player locally who did really well. He got a deserved new contract at Hereford and played in defence as well as appearing in midfield.
He should be a Football League player, like Karnell. But Keiran is in a settled environment at Hereford and is at a club where he is loved by everyone, from the staff to his teammates and the fans – so he is setting himself up to push on and achieve his targets.
Overall the boys in the region have had a good season, those three in particular, but everyone is on the up – which is great news for their clubs, the players themselves and us as Agents.”
After years with Tuffley as a player/coach, O’Leary left Gloucestershire to live closer to Core Sports HQ, but he couldn’t go without talking about his former side, especially with Rovers avoiding the drop from the Hellenic Premier.
“I do miss Tuffley, of course I do. I miss the boys, especially Sam Hill. I need my Sam Hill fix, which I am hoping to get this weekend at We Are Festival. There will be a dance off, trust me there will be shapes.
But I loved my time at Tuffley, it is a great club and I was delighted to see them and Longlevens both get out of the hole of relegation. It is great for the area!
Tuffley have a load of young players coming through which is great to see and Pritch [First Team Manager Mark Pritchett] is a good manager who has a great coach in Rich Cox, so expect big things from Rovers next season.”O’Leary said.