The Southampton Football Academy has been launched to give selected students the chance to combine high quality football development with continued academic study.
The programme has been launched this month to improve the playing ability, fitness levels and career prospects of 14 students aged 16 to 19. Among the ranks are Hanham 16-year-olds Jordan Williams, from Avon View, (third from left, back row, and also pictured below) and Nick Croucher, from Abbots Avenue, (fifth from left, back row) and 17-year-old Jake Britton, of Charnhill Brow, Mangotsfield (far right, back row).
The fully-funded, full-time academy aims to help the students fulfil their potential and make their way into the professional game at the highest level.
Course leader and personal tutor Paul Blenkinsopp said the academy would allow students to develop as players, further their education and experience student life.
He said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for the students and the college to be linked with a Premier League club. It’s great opportunity for the students to experience what it’s like to train and study like actual youth team players at any professional club. The students get an insight into the set-up of a premiership team and will be in Southampton kits at all times as we want them to feel a part of the club. We are hoping to help nurture the football stars of the future.”
Students were selected for the two-year programme based on their football ability, with many having previously played for youth teams such at Bristol Rovers, Yeovil Town and Swindon Town.
Paul said: “It’s seen as a second chance for these young players who have been released by other teams.
“With Southampton now in the Premiership, the club doesn’t want to miss out on any local talent. They are giving these students an additional two years to help develop their physical ability and education in the hope they can make the grade.”
The students spend most of their time in the classroom working towards a Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma Sports Performance & Excellence qualification. They also train for at least eight hours a week at the University of Bath with coaching sessions focusing on fitness training, agility testing and football skills.
Fitness will be monitored through individual training plans with a focus on diet and nutrition, and physiotherapists will help keep the students in the best physical shape.
The Academy football team will play competitive fixtures at least once a week against other Academy sides. Students will also be encouraged to take part in professional trial games.
Matt Hale, Southampton FC’s Academy manager at Bath, said: “The boys have got a great opportunity with this programme to gain a top qualification and to develop their football skills; they are getting the best of both worlds.
“They are very much part of the club, it’s as if they are on a constant trial. We see this programme as an investment in those who may not have been ready to play professional football at the age of 16. We hope one or two of the boys will be offered a contract at Southampton, while others could go on to other professional clubs or stay in education.”