Young Albion trio pen pro deals

Alex Williams signing his first professional contract with Albion

Academy prospects Matt Richards, Ronnie Hollingshead and Alex Williams have committed their futures to the Albion after signing professional terms with the club.

The second-year scholars have penned two-and-a-half-year deals to keep them at The Hawthorns until the summer of 2025.

Central midfielder Richards, who hails from Sutton Coldfield, made a positive impression during the first year of his scholarship, fitting seamlessly into Richard Beale’s U21s group and operating in numerous positions.

Matt’s application and determination was rewarded at the end of the 2021/22 campaign after winning the club’s Academy Player of the Year Award, and the youngster continues to make positive strides heading into the next stage of his development.

Matt Richards signing his professional contract
Midfielder Matty Richards penning his first pro deal with the Baggies

Like his fellow team-mate, goalkeeper Hollingshead has already enjoyed plenty of exposure in the Baggies’ PL2 side over the last two seasons and has been a regular between the sticks for Beale’s men this term.

A Wales youth international, the Hereford-born keeper has featured for the Dragons up to U18s level and Ronnie has already started working on the next step of his journey by gaining important minutes in senior football during a month’s loan at non-league Hednesford Town earlier in January.

Ronnie Hollingshead penning his professional deal
Goalkeeper Ronnie Hollingshead putting pen to paper on his first pro deal

Another Welsh representative is promising full-back Williams, whose energy and contribution in the attacking third have impressed academy staff during his time at the club.

Having already caught the eye early into his time in B71, Alex was handed his debut in the 21s at the age of just 16 and the Warwick-born defender will be keen to strengthen his core skills ahead of making the full transition into becoming a professional.

On the trio agreeing pro terms, Academy Manager Richard Stevens said: “The three lads are exactly how you’d want the Albion academy to look.

“The boys have been here for a considerable amount of time, and I think it’s important for a club like us to show that young players have the opportunity to progress from schoolboy, into the scholarship phase and now the professional ranks.

“When I first saw Alex there was something about him which I really liked. He’s a modern-day full-back, a great one-on-one defender, has a lovely poise and calmness about him, and he can affect the game in the front half of the pitch.

Alex Williams signing his first professional contract with Albion
Right wing-back Alex Williams signing his pro deal

“He’s reserved, a really nice boy and is one who sets examples when he goes about his business. There’s more to come from him and he’s found a nice place on the pitch at the moment, but I don’t want him to stay there too long.

“We want him to push himself harder because there’s so much more to come from Alex and when you look at the modern game in the EFL, he has the beginnings of the qualities required for that stage, but he’s someone who will give it everything to reach those levels.

“Matty Richards is everything we’re trying to build this academy on in terms of how he embraces the environment, drives himself and those around him, sets great standards, maximises what he is and leaves his mark on the game.

“In the Albion family we look at hard work, family, setting good examples and Matty is all of that and not just sometimes, but all of the time. He’s still got a lot to do, like everyone has, but he’s been outstanding during his time with us.

“Ronnie has had excellent potential, he’s played up at higher age groups, is a Welsh international, and that makes it easy for us to see the next stage of his development.

“The loan he’s had this year was in the long term, but not the short term plan for him. But he felt he was ready, we did too, and it gives Ronnie the chance to go and play men’s football which is what it’s all about. He's got a lot of good things ahead of him."

  • Hollingshead
  • Matt Richards
  • Alex Williams