Where are they now? The squad that reached the 2016 FA Youth Cup semi-finals

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It’s five years to the day since Rovers reached the semi-finals of the 2015-16 FA Youth Cup tournament, where they exited the competition following a 4-1 aggregate defeat to Chelsea.

Rovers have enjoyed success in the tournament most recently, reaching the final four of the delayed 2019-20 edition of the competition, with the likes of Dan Pike, Sam Burns and Luke Brennan making the step up to the U23s.

The Chelsea side on 8 April 2016 had the likes of now-Chelsea first-team duo Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham, plus Fikayo Tomori who left the club in January.

But, how did the Rovers squad of the same year fare in the five years that followed? We’ve taken a look at all sixteen players – and the manager – that were part of the squad from that evening at Stamford Bridge to see where they ended up.

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Andrew Fisher

Goalkeeper Fisher signed his first professional deal in January 2016, and progressed quickly through the ranks. He made his debut in August 2017 in the Checkatrade Trophy, and went on to make four appearances in all competitions for Rovers, spending time out on loan with FC United of Manchester, Northampton Town and MK Dons.

He left the club permanently in October 2020 signing for the latter, ending a nine-year stay with Rovers.

Lewis Travis

A name obviously familiar and popular with all Rovers fans, Travis signed for Rovers in 2014 following his departure from Liverpool’s academy. After the Youth Cup run at right-back, he progressed into the U23s and made his debut a year later in the Checkatrade Trophy win over Stoke City U21s.

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He has since surpassed a century of appearances for Rovers as a centre-midfielder, and will look to make the step up to the Premier League in the coming years.

Josh Askew

A regular in both the U18 and U21 sides in the 2015-16 season, and grabbing the assist in this fixture, Askew featured for the development sides often before his departure in the summer of 2017 after Rovers were relegated to League One.

Askew has since featured for Salford City, Curzon Ashton and Boston United, and he now plays for National League North side Chester FC.

Lewis Hardcastle

Having been with Rovers since the age of six, Lewis worked his way through the ranks and became a key figure for the U18s side, and scored the only goal in the quarter-final win over Luton – which booked Rovers’ place in the semi-finals against Chelsea.

After loan spells with Salford, Port Vale and Barrow, he signed for the latter on a permanent basis in March 2019, helping them achieve promotion to the Football League the season after.

Unfortunately, on 24 March 2021, Hardcastle was forced to announce his retirement from football aged just 22 following his diagnosis of a heart problem (arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy).

Following Lewis’ retirement, his former team-mate Josh Askew is raising money for the British Heart Foundation, running 10 half-marathons through April. If you would like to donate for a brilliant cause, you can visit Josh’s JustGiving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/josh-askew2

Matthew Platt

Having been with the club since the age of nine, Platt had become a reliable centre-back through the academy levels, and formed a strong partnership with the likes of Scott Wharton.

He made four appearances for Rovers’ senior side but struggled to make a real breakthrough, heading out on loan to Barrow, Accrington Stanley, Southport and then Barrow once more. In July 2020, he became a permanent Barrow player following their promotion from League Two, ending his 13-year association with Rovers.

He has made 19 appearances for the Bluebirds this season.

Scott Wharton

Blackburn-born and with the club from a young age, Scott captained the U18s side and had the armband for the Youth Cup fixtures against Chelsea.

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He made his senior debut later that year against Burton Albion, and then scored days later against Crewe Alexandra, before heading out on a series of loans – spending time with Cambridge United, Lincoln City (twice), Bury and Northampton Town, gaining three separate promotions from League Two.

Wharton was handed his chance with the first team this season and looked at home in the defence before an Achilles injury ended his season – leaving him with 14 senior appearances for the club as it stands.

Tre Pemberton

A tricky winger who was a regular in the U18s and featured occasionally for the U23s, Pemberton left the club following the relegation to League One in 2017.

He signed for Stoke City to feature for their U23s, and he was a regular for the young Potters before he signed for his current side FC United of Manchester in October 2020.

Joe Rankin-Costello

Another name known by all Rovers fans now, Joe Rankin-Costello moved to the club in 2014 and quickly cemented his place in the U18 and then U23 sides.

The 2016-17 season saw him made 36 appearances for the youth sides, and he was rewarded the following season with his debut in the Checkatrade Trophy. Injury prevented him featuring in the 2018-19 season, but the following season saw JRC breakthrough and become a regular in the side in the latter months of the campaign.

Rankin-Costello has struggled with injuries in the current season as well, and he will be hoping to shake off the recurring niggles to add to his 29 appearances so far for the club.

Lewis Mansell

Born in Burnley, Mansell began his career with Rovers and was the sole scorer in the semi-final legs against Chelsea. He progressed into the U23s and despite scoring regularly, he couldn’t break into the first team and spent time out on loan with FC United of Manchester and Partick Thistle.

Following his release from Rovers in 2019, he signed for the latter and spent a year north of the border before moving back to England in late 2020, signing a one-year deal with Accrington Stanley.

Mansell has made a handful of appearances for Stanley this season, as well as spending a short-term loan spell with non-league side FC Halifax Town.

Willem Tomlinson

With Rovers since 2009, Tomlinson was another player to progress through the ranks with such promise but ultimately struggled to make a regular impact in the first team.

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He did record ten senior appearances for Rovers before mutually terminating his contract in January 2019. Tomlinson joined Mansfield following his departure but left the club in September 2020.

The midfielder then joined Chorley in November 2020, and was a key figure during the latter stages of their memorable FA Cup run.

Ramirez Howarth

With Rovers since the age of 12, Howarth struggled to make it past the development squads and spent time out on loan with Bamber Bridge and Skelmersdale United following the Youth Cup run – which ‘Remy’ played a regular part in.

He signed permanently for Skelmersdale in 2017 following his release from Rovers, before a back injury kept him out of football for 18 months. He went on to play for Ashton United, West Disbury & Chorlton and Welsh side Cefn Druids.

In September 2020, he signed for his current club League One side Lincoln City, managed by former Rovers manager Michael Appleton.

Mason Fawns

A substitute in the second leg of the semi-finals, Fawns left Rovers in the summer of the same year, signing for Oldham Athletic.

He spent two years with the Latics before being released in 2018 after spending time on loan with Ashton United and AFC Fylde.

Fawns then played for Curzon Ashton, Altrincham and his current side Ramsbottom United in the Northern Premier League North West Division.

Joel Steer

Another substitute in the second leg, Steer was released the following summer (2017) following Rovers’ relegation.

The forward is one whose path after leaving the club is unclear, with his former clubs listed as Solihull Moors and Tamworth in Sporting Club Inkberrow’s profile of the player in 2018, where it appears he played as recent as last December.

Joe Grayson

Son of former Rover Simon, Joe quickly made his way through the ranks, and soon after the Youth Cup run, he became a regular figure in both Damien Johnson and Billy Barr’s U23 sides.

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Joe has spent time out on loan with both Grimsby Town and Oxford United, with his loan spell with the latter coming to an end this summer.

His contract is also set to expire, meaning his future is still in the balance.

Ben Ascroft

Ascroft was an unused substitute in the Youth Cup semi-finals, and after leaving the club in the summer of 2017, he spent the next four years developing young talent as the Assistant Academy Goalkeeping Coach at Blackburn Rovers – helping with the careers of Andy Fisher, David Raya, Jordan Eastham and others.

He made the switch to Fleetwood Town in October 2020, taking the Head of Academy Goalkeeping role.

Tyler Magloire

With the club from a young age, Magloire was also an unused substitute in the second semi-final, but he quickly established himself as a regular in the development sides.

He made his debut in March 2019, and spent time in the 2019-20 season on loan with Rochdale, although injury prevented any real development.

Despite featuring regularly in pre-season, he spent the part of the first half of the 2020-21 season on loan with Hartlepool, before moving to Scottish Premiership side Motherwell on loan in January.

Follow our account dedicated to Rovers’ U23 and U18 sides. All the latest updates, news and match content will be posted there before anywhere else so make sure you’re following: @academy_rovers.

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