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If we don’t have players in the pro game in five years – I’d be disappointed” – new football academy gets ready for September launch

A football partnership that aims to educate youngsters and discover a new generation of professional footballers in Suffolk is getting ready to launch in September 2021.

The academy has been set up by Bury Town Football Club, West Suffolk College and Culford School.

The Bury Town Manager Ben Chenery, former Ipswich Town star Alan Lee (head of Culford football) and head of sport at West Suffolk College, Anthony Harvey, are behind the new project.

Mr Chenery, who is also the head of football at West Suffolk College, said, “We have ex-players who are qualified coaches and teachers who will be delivering this level three BTEC sport excellence qualification. It will be the perfect mix of education and playing football.”

Future plans will see former Premier League footballers be brought into sessions to assist with training - and learners will also get the chance to grill ex-pros on their careers.

In addition to support from ex professionals, Mr Chenery is looking to reach out to the whole community.

He continued, “We want a thriving integrated football academy involving everyone – that is the long term plan.”

The team is also keen to work with established academies for the benefit of football in the region as a whole.

Mr Chenery continued, “If we get players from local clubs like Walsham, Newmarket or Mildenhall for example, they will continue to play for their other clubs. We have found in the past that treading on peoples toes has not been beneficial.”

Culford School, based on the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds, is excited to be involved in the project and will provide first class training facilities in the beautiful 480acre Culford Park.

Mr Chenery, continued, “Culford pupils will be fully involved in the academy, as they combine a passion for football with their A Level studies. Culford has a long-standing reputation of sporting excellence and working with the local community, they are delighted to be part of this new initiative.

“In terms of the academy ethos, we want to transfer education onto the football pitch. We will deliver information to our students in a way that they understand and we will give people opportunities.

“Once you get that opportunity, you will need to take ownership of it and put into practice what you’ve been taught.”

The former Cambridge and Luton player, added, “My manager at Luton, (David Pleat) used to say, you can teach a good footballer one thing and he will do it 100 times. You can tell a bad footballer the same thing one hundred times and he will do it once. That is football in a nutshell.”

Mr Harvey, said, “We are an outstanding department – running an outstanding football provision and this will help take us to the next level. We consistently have students going to university and we have previously supported footballers like Nick Pope get to the Premier League. Our aim - without question – is to be the number one football academy provider in East Anglia.”

“We need to get this right and then we will start expanding the programme in different directions that will incorporate women’s, disability football and other parts of the community as soon as we can.”

“Ultimately, we want to be a gold standard for education in terms of this academy. We want to create an innovative industry driven football programme that helps young people progress to university, and also produces players and coaches that will work in grassroots football all the way through to the promised land of the Premier League. In five years, I’d be very disappointed if we didn’t have players going into the professional game.”

“And on a basic level, we want to improve the standard of football at all levels and age groups in this county,” he added.

To find out more about these courses you can visit www.wsc.ac.uk/sport - or you can call 01284 716 354.