How Rowley rose through the ranks – academy boss reveals secret to Joe’s ascent

Rowley celebrates his match winner against Port Vale in League One last season
Rowley celebrates his match winner against Port Vale in League One last season
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Chesterfield academy boss Mark Smith has held Joe Rowley up as a leading example for the club’s other teenagers to follow.

The attacking midfielder broke into Gary Caldwell’s squad towards the end of the season and made seven consecutive starts.

His performances, particularly in games against Rochdale and promotion winners Bolton Wanderers, led to a professional contract.

There was also reported interest from clubs at a higher level.

Smith, who helped develop the 18-year-old in the club’s youth system, has added to the rave reviews Rowley has received.

He says the youngster is exactly what the academy sets out to produce.

“Joe is very much like what we try and get out of our academy players,” he said.

“Great attitude, wants to learn, really coachable person.

“Athletically he’s okay, he’s not blisteringly quick but he’s got enough pace.

“He’s strong and getting stronger, I think he’s got the potential to get bigger.”

It’s not just what Rowley does on the pitch that has impressed Smith, and the first team gaffer for that matter.

After an impressive professional debut, Rowley swept out the dressing room as part of his youth-team duties.

And a couple of days later he was ball boy for the reserves.

Caldwell, who has tipped Rowley to go on to much bigger and better things, was quick to highlight how well his young star had handled his breakthrough and how firmly his feet were on the ground.

“He’s exactly like the benchmark we want our kids to be,” said Smith.

“Really good values, good work ethic, can play a little bit.

“Some come with traits you can’t really put in kids, you can’t get their attitudes better, that’s their nature, but Joe is not one of them.

“He just epitomises what we want off the field, his general mentality and his attitude to football.”

And there’s no doubt in Smith’s mind that his academy coaches have played a big part in Rowley’s ascent to senior football.

“It’s up to us to try and make them better,” said the former Sheffield Wednesday defender.

“He came in, released by Sheffield United, something like that and we’ve had him for about five years and you can see the difference between where he started and where he is now.”