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Breakthrough time for Sheffield football education programme

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Brodie Litchfield is the first graduate of a unique combined football and education programme.

The  17-year-old has signed a development contract with Sheffield United and in the process becomes the first youngster to progress through the Club’s  ‘A United Future’ programme.

The striker, who made his first-team debut for Stocksbridge Park Steels last season (following in the footsteps of new England international Jamie Vardy), will now be  part of United’s youth team for the 2015/16 campaign.

The elite education and training programme for talented young footballers who aspire to turning professional was launched in the city in July 2014 and Litchfield, who has been with Stocksbridge since the age of eight,  was amongst the first to sign up in September last year.

The two-year programme offers students the chance to complete a recognised vocational qualification whilst honing their technical skills with Sheffield United.

United’s Redtooth Academy Manager Nick Cox says the Club is delighted to be able to offer young talent a ‘second chance’. The teenager is the first graduate of the ‘A United Future’ programme, in association with The Sheffield College.

Mr Cox said: “We are delighted to offer Brodie the opportunity to continue his development as part of our Academy programme.  There is a lot of hard work left for him to do but right now he should be celebrating what is a huge achievement.

“This is a great success for the ‘United Futures’ programme in only its first year. We designed the programme to give late developing players the chance to stay closely connected with the professional game. In effect the programme has given Brodie a second chance. Hopefully he is just the first.

“There is no reason why other youngsters won’t follow the example set by Brodie – our aim is to see a graduate of the programme play in the first-team at Bramall Lane.

“Great credit must go to Lee Dunn, who has designed and managed the football element of the programme. He has worked very closely with the staff at Sheffield College, most notably Jonny Wathen, to ensure that the first cohort of players receive a great experience both on and off the pitch.

 “A huge thank you must also go to Allen Bethell and his team at Stocksbridge Park Steels who have supported Brodie every step of the way to help him achieve this opportunity. Moving forward, both the Club and Sheffield College will be working closely with Stocksbridge.”

The programme is delivered by United’s Redtooth Academy and The Sheffield College. It is aimed at 16 to 18-year-olds who have previous experience of playing to an elite level and who want to develop a career as a footballer, as well as those who want the business knowhow to break into the football, sport and leisure industries.

Applicants have to attend some practical trials and pass a formal interview before being offered a course place. Trials for current U17s and U18s to follow in the footsteps of Litchfield will take place on 4 and 5 August, for more information or to express an interest please contact Lee Dunn at The Sheffield College via email at lee.dunn@sheffcol.ac.uk

Students study for a BTEC Diploma in Sport, Performance and Excellence at Level 3 – equivalent to two A Levels. Also, they spend part of their week training at the Redtooth Academy at Shirecliffe, gaining an insight into the workings of a professional Football Club, shadowing senior staff and having access to Academy training and first-team matches.

In addition to offering a recognised qualification and an intensive training and development programme, that mirrors the experience of a SUFC youth team player, the programme provides the chance to achieve FA National Governing Body qualifications.

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Brodie Lichfield, centre, with Nick Cox, left, and youth team coach Travis Binnion

 

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