Giving academy talents a chance to shine on and off the pitch

Posted by SCLedu on 16.11.17

THINGS are going brilliantly at Ebbsfleet United. Not only did Daryl McMahon’s side seal promotion, in dramatic fashion, to the National League last season, they have also settled into Non-League’s top-tier seamlessly, sitting just three points off the play-offs.

However, it’s not just the first team who are flying. Ebbsfleet United Football Academy, developed in partnership with SCL and nurturing over 40 lads on the programme, is going from strength to strength with its well-established training and development scheme.

They have just opened the gates to the new academic year with a new intake of young hopefuls looking to establish a career in football, and the future is looking bright.

The programme has already proved to have great exit routes, with several players last year from the academy programme signing first-team contracts – not to mention 17-year old Academy midfielder Shilow Tracey completing a move to Tottenham Hotspur for an undisclosed fee. This season they have had five players sign for Ebbsfleet’s first team and one boy has signed for Notts County.

Despite the success, Fleet are refusing to stand still, and have just taken on a passionate new manager in the form of Adam Griffin, who told The NLP that the club are on a mission.

“The club are taking the youth section very seriously at Ebbsfleet. We aim to be a Cap 3 academy by 2019, the infrastructure we have put in place, obviously myself and Danny. The full-time training syllabus I put in, It’s very similar to a Cap 2 or 3 academy.”

Griffin’s experience will create the perfect match with the education and excellence programme being run by SCL.

“I have worked in Academy football for the last eight years, working for professional clubs,” he added. “I joined Ebbsfleet this season, I was brought in by first-team striker Danny Kedwell – also Head of the Academy – and given the Head of Coaching role to oversee the U19’s.

“I played at youth level for Crystal Palace, so I have been in the system and I know how difficult it is so putting me into this sort of environment is beneficial to the boys as I can advise them on and off the pitch.

“To be honest a lot of them are quite underprivileged kids who don’t really live in Ebbsfleet.

“Twenty-five per cent of the programme consists of local lads, the rest are inner-city London kids, making an hour-long journey to get in because there is nothing there for them in their local area at this level and environment. If they didn’t get Ebbsfleet this year, I don’t know where they would be.”

So, what does it takes to be successful? “They know that the work of what they need to put in is massive,” Griffin added. “Even when they are not here we tell them to go and do gym work, do things outside of Ebbsfleet that will help them, whether it be swimming or yoga.”

Steve Franks, managing director at SCL Education Group, told The NLP how the success of a programme like this speaks for itself.

“We are always looking at ways for young people who have a passion for sport to follow their passion, but get an education and widen their career options at the same time,” he said.

“Partnering with clubs like Ebbsfleet allows us to create a bespoke programme with a fantastic football development programme and education, which gives them the best of both worlds. The success stories we have seen from the academy programme speaks for itself.“

Asked about the importance of the boys getting an education, Griffin added: “It’s the back-up plan, they need to have something to bounce back on, as much as we are very much for the football, if the education isn’t completed or they don’t turn up to lessons they don’t train. It opens up a wide variety of options when you leave Ebbsfleet.

“Even the top clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal and Southampton they all have education. It’s having that equal balance, we are quite stern with the coaching and they are quite stern with the education.

“In these two years they are with us, we want to put life skills in them as well, making them realise that it’s not necessarily about playing for Ebbsfleet, it’s about making a career out of football.

“We try to instil that in all of them that if they work hard and go all the way and get into the first team then that’s brilliant, but there’s other options outside of here were help them with as well.”

Donna Finning was a tutor at Barking Football Academy, run in partnership with SCL and has since progressed to curriculum manager at SCL covering the London Region was asked about the education side of the programme.

She added: “We give them an exclusive tailored education programme which encompasses football. While their doing the football they actually get the chance to develop and get their skills for going out to the future workplace.

“SCL’s drive in setting up academy programmes originates from the fact that young people are often disengaged from traditional education and often when players don’t make it in the game, they get released and have to face the reality they have nowhere to go and nothing to fall back on.

On facing the reality of trying to get in the game, Griffin added: “We have a very strong link with the first team and the academy, it’s the realism that if you not going get to that level, we look after the boys outside of football. When the two years are up we have an exit route for a lot of the boys which I think a lot of people haven’t got. That’s what we are good at, we’re either going send them out to America to universities out there or were put them into Non-League, lower level.

“They are gaining so much when there here but when they are out we still want to help them with their exit routes.”

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