FOLLAND Sports have long admired the youth development programmes of Sydenhams Premier Division rivals Christchurch and Sholing.
Now, after three years’ hard graft, they are starting a talent conveyor belt of their own by forging an exciting partnership aimed at raising Follands' profile in the local community and bringing the next generation of young Planemakers through.
The Hamble-based club have teamed up with thriving local sports coaching company, Learning Through Sport (LTS) Limited, to create a School of Development Centre.
LTS already do a lot of work with schools in the area . They have formed great links with Hamble Community Sports College through Mandy Quill and Jeremy Ord and one idea in the pipeline is to run a football and multi-skill festival for local schoolchildren at Follands' ground before the end of the academic year.
The spin-off of the community work with the schools is the School of Development Centre (SODC). Initially it will aim to recruit the best local boys aged under-7 to under-12 but, in time, will stretch right through to under-18s and into the Folland’s first team.
For the past three seasons LTS have been running a development centre in Basingstoke under the guidance of Matt Beckingham, an experienced UEFA B Licence Level 3 coach, and head coach Sam Ivory.
So far ten players have either signed for professional club academies or are currently in elite squads at profession al academy clubs – a record Beckingham and Ivory are very proud of.
Links have been formed with many professional and semi-professional clubs and Beckingham was recently offered an academy scouting position with Premier League outfit Fulham.
The development centre complements the training players receive with their grassroots teams. Rep matches are organised against professional, semi-professional and private coaching companies during training nights or school holidays and professional scouts often attend to run the rule over potential academy recruits.
Welcoming the link-up with Follands, Beckingham said: “Thanks must go to (manager) Danny Bowers who has given us his full backing and support.
“We were drawn to Folland Sports by the sheer enthusiasm of Danny and the vision the club has for the future.
"They want to work more closely with the local and surrounding area and community, but also help develop local talented players who, one day, we all hope will go on and play in the Follands first team.
“We feel Follands is a club on the up, as their current run of league results demonstrates, and we are delighted to be linking in with the football club at this very exciting time.”
Bowers added: “Christchurch and Sholing are great examples of what can be done with youth development and it will be nice for Follands to have home-grown players coming through.
“We’ve finally awoken after years and years and we’re trying really hard to bring the local community into our football club.”
Folland Sports SODC will hold their first batch of trials at The Sholing Technology College on Monday, March 31 (5.30-7.15pm) for outfield players and goalkeepers currently playing in the under-7 to under-12 age range.
Places are strictly limited and can be booked via the LTS website at www.learningthroughsport.co.uk Alternatively, email admin@learn ingthroughsport.co.uk