12:14pm Friday 6th June 2014
By Andrew Simpson
WITTON Albion have been picked to take part in a pilot scheme for teenagers that combines playing competitive football with studying for a qualification.
The Northern Premier League Academy, to be made up of 10 clubs, starts a two-year run in September.
Boys, aged between 16 and 18, can attempt to impress coaches during a trial at Wincham Park on Tuesday, from 6pm, with more planned in the coming weeks.
The programme will complement, not replace, Albion’s existing youth team.
“This will give the club another string to its bow,” said chairman Mark Harris.
“It fits in with what we’re all about, which is making a contribution to the community around us.
“If we can find talented young players to send up through our structure, then that’s an added bonus.
“Primarily though, this is about providing an opportunity for school leavers to make a first step to a career in the semi-professional game and beyond.
“Not every student will go on to make a contribution as a player. However, the course can play a role in introducing the next generation of administrators and volunteers into the sport – we hope – at non-league level.
The project, sanctioned by the Football Association, is the first of its kind in the English game.
An initial intake of 200 students, spread evenly between the participating clubs, will study for a BTEC Level 3 in Sport.
Those chosen to represent Witton will work with an FA-licensed coach at the club’s home ground, in Northwich, for 20 hours a week.
They will play some of their matches there, with others planned for a pitch nearby.
Harris said: “I’m confident our Academy team can fit into our existing structure.
“If the lads are good enough, then there will be a chance for them to play in our youth side which has enjoyed success under Mick Duckett.”
Indeed, Witton lost to eventual winners Warrington Town at the semi-finals stage of last season’s Cheshire FA Youth Cup.
For further details, or to register, visit nplfootballacademy.co.uk.
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