ACADEMY manager Kevin Hodges has spoken of his pride in the progress being made by former Pilgrims' schoolboy Lloyd Jones.The former Devonport High School for Boys has made significant progress since leaving Argyle for Liverpool in 2011, to such an extent that he was included in the Red's match-day squad for their 3-1 Premier League victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
Lloyd first signed for the Pilgrims as an 11 year old and later went on to join Liverpool in time for the beginning of the 2011-12 season.
Academy manager Hodges, himself the Pilgrims' record appearance holder, was of course pleased to see Lloyd on the cusp of the big stage.
"Lloyd used to come in as a 15 year old on a school day release programme," recalled Kevin.
"He was playing for our Under 15s but he had made excellent progress, so we gave him the exposure of training and playing with our under 18s.
"For a young lad, he was very comfortable in the environment of full time football.
"Everybody took to him too, and he had a few training sessions with the first team; again showing a very mature approach for someone of his age.
"He was aware that there were areas of his game that he needed to work at, and Lloyd, under his own initiative, did extra work outside of the Centre of Excellence including strength and conditioning and technical practice, personifying how thoughtful and determined he was. It certainly gave him an edge which led to the opportunity of moving to Liverpool.
“Lloyd also featured in the Welsh Youth Squads which would have given him a great deal of national exposure.
"We're very proud of him and watch his development and progress with great interest.
"Lloyd was given an opportunity, when our club was in administration, and it's great to see that he's grasped that opportunity and he's continuing to do really well."
Lloyd is now one of a number of Argyle products to feature for Premier League clubs.
Jack Stephens left the club for Southampton in April 2011 having played a number of first-team games whilst in his first year as an apprentice. Sam Gallagher joined him at St Mary's at the start of the 2012 season to commence his apprenticeship.
Jack Stephens: In action for the Pilgrims in October 2010
Midfielder Dan Barrow is with West Bromwich Albion after being sold by the club whilst 'keeper Christian Walton has recently signed for Brighton and Hove Albion.
"Lloyd, Dan and Sam would all have been first year apprentices this past season," said Kevin.
"I have expressed my views on many occasions that the perfect scenario would be that they come in, develop and break into our first team and then, if they're good enough, they progress from there.
"As a club, we would benefit more financially and we would also benefit from their abilities. Sadly, it doesn’t always happen that way.
“However, I fully understand that when the bigger clubs show interest in our players we sometimes have to sell the players on and that’s also going to benefit the club.
"But when you've got those players with Premier League clubs, it demonstrates that we are doing things the right way in our Academy.
"That's down to our coaches across all our age groups. We've have a good mix of coaches from a variety of backgrounds all bringing a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the role. Long may it continue."