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Spireites' Northern Ireland Duo Represent Their Country

25 September 2016

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Spireites academy manager Mark Smith is enjoying the success of academy duo Josh Tipping and Marc McKenna who spent last week with the Northern Ireland Under 17 squad.

The pair, who are in their first year with the Spireites, are aiming to qualify for the Under 17 European championships with Northern Ireland and Mark Smith spoke about the benefits that this brings to Chesterfield. 

On their success, he said: “It is really positive for us and really good for the kids, although it is new and we have to get our head around them being away all week. It is not their first tournament, three weeks prior to this they played in Poland and it is just something that as an academy we will have to get used to. 

“It is a feather in our cap as an academy and as a football club, because we can attract international players and it is now just trying to work them into our programme while they are here because their main aim here will be to earn a pro contract with us.

“It should raise the profile of the academy because we have gone into the Irish market and shown that we can attract players like Marc and Josh. Moving forwards that is something that we should be exploiting a little bit, letting people know that we have got international players here.”

Mark Smith spoke about the duo in July when they arrived and admitted that for various circumstances he has yet to see the best of either of them in a Chesterfield shirt. 

Smith continued: “Both of them have done okay during their time here, Josh Tipping is a centre-forward but missed a chunk of pre-season through illness, which on top of his time away with Northern Ireland doesn't help, it just means that he is still trying to find his feet here. 

“We feel that he will be a handful for us up front because as a centre-forward he has got a bit of a presence about him. What we have told Josh is to try and get a clean bill of health and start building up his overall fitness and then hopefully we have got a player on our hands. 

“Marc McKenna is a midfielder but just lacks a little bit of physicality at the moment, although he has done alright when he has had a little bit of game time. He has generally been a sub for us at the moment because he is maybe not quite up to speed in regards to the physical side of things, but there are encouraging signs from them both.”

While the academy are currently reaping the rewards of dipping into the Irish market, Smith insisted that the priority remains to produce Chesterfield’s finest. 

“In future it might help us attract a higher calibre of player than we have done in the past, but it is a fine balance at the moment, because we don't want to be taking too many kids from other clubs and other countries. 

“However when one comes up and we have got a chance to sign them then obviously we will be in for that player, but the main objective remains to produce our own. It is a balancing act but it means that we can pitch to any potential scholars that we have international players and that is going to benefit for us.” 

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