- Ben Nelson won Academy Player of the Season at Leicester City’s 2020/21 End of Season Awards
- The 17-year-old defender featured regularly for the Under-23s and also played his first games for the Under-18s
- The centre-back says it is an 'unreal' feeling to receive recognition for his performances in both age groups
- Getting the chance to gain experience with the first team will only help him to improve his game, Nelson adds
The defender enjoyed a breakthrough season, moving straight into the Under-23s squad as a first-year scholar, fitting seamlessly into the backline despite having only previously played Under-16s football.
He was a regular in Premier League 2, with 16 appearances across 2020/21, as well as featuring twice in the Papa John’s Trophy as Leicester reached the third round of the competition.
Nelson also turned out for the Under-18s on occasion, playing four times in Premier League U18, scoring once, as well as making two FA Youth Cup appearances in City’s run to the fifth round.
Voted for by the Development Squad and Academy coaching staff, the Northampton-born defender feels proud to have been recognised for his achievements this campaign.
The youngster says his first season of Under-23s football has been a big learning curve.
“It’s unreal, really, I think I hadn’t expected that at the start of the year,” the 17-year-old admitted. “Obviously, my hard work in pre-season, the instructions given and all that with COVID-19, I came through it really well.
"And it’s showed that they’ve noticed that and my performances on the pitch have been good. I just want to keep pushing on towards the first team now, get more experiences with the first team and keep performing well within the Under-23s.”
In a difficult season for the Development Squad, the centre-back has been a shining light, and he believes he can use it to continue his development and upward trajectory.
He continued: “First of all, I really didn’t expect it to be honest. But obviously it’s come at me, and I’ve had to take it in my stride.
When I look at the training sessions, I picked up little things through the older centre-backs and now have to try and mould that into my game. It just made me want to get another experience like that and carry on.Ben Nelson
“It’s been a really good challenge and one I think I’ve rose to and really cemented my position in the Under-23s squad, so it’s been really good. It was a younger team this year and I could see it was more about development this season.
“It’s great, stepping up from Under-16s football straight into Under-23s meant I had work on parts of my game that maybe I wouldn’t have had to work on as much if I didn’t do it, so I think it’s a really positive for me for the future.
“Probably the biggest one I’ve had to adapt in would be the Papa John’s Trophy. Obviously playing against pros who are mid-20s to 30s, who have been in the game for a while.
“They’ve got that advantage and you’ve got to use your technical ability if you’ve not got the physical ability, you’ve got to use the technical and find other ways to get around them.”
Ben Nelson & Shane Flynn
Alongside fellow Development Squad defender Shane Flynn, Nelson was part of the matchday squad for City's UEFA Europa League tie in Ukraine.
A highlight of Nelson’s season was being named in the first team squad for the Foxes’ UEFA Europa League Group Stage fixture away at Zorya Luhansk. The youngster feels he learned a lot from being involved with the senior side and will use the experience as motivation to achieve more in the future.
“Of course, it was amazing,” he added. “Just being around the squad was a really good experience and seeing how it works and how professional they all are before the game.
“And leading up to the game with the meetings and even the game as well was unreal, being on the bench and being able to see the action, what the manager was doing, it was good.
“When I look at the training sessions, I picked up little things through the older centre-backs and now have to try and mould that into my game. It just made me want to get another experience like that and carry on.”
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