A new elite education and training programme for talented young footballers who aspire to turn professional is being launched in Sheffield.
The two-year elite football programme called A United Future offers students the chance to complete a recognised vocational qualification and hone their technical skills with Sheffield United Football Club.
It is aimed at 16 to 18-year-olds who have previous experience of playing to elite level and who want to develop a career as a footballer, as well as those who want the business know-how 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.
Students will study for a BTEC Diploma in Sport, Performance and Excellence at Level 3 – equivalent to two A Levels – at Hillsborough College, Livesey Street.
They will also spend part of their week training with the academy, and 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. A coaching qualification will be delivered by academy staff at the college.
Nick Cox, academy manager, Sheffield United FC, said:
“We are dedicated to the development of home grown talent.
“This programme is a key part of our overall player development strategy at the Club.
“Whilst there is a growing trend of academies importing foreign players, our strategy is to exhaust local talent from Sheffield and the surrounding areas before looking further afield.
“The programme will give players a route back into the professional game with the opportunity for some talented students to play for the first team.
“There are lots of talented youngsters who, for one reason or another, haven’t succeeded first time around. This offers them a second chance at success.”
Heather Smith, executive director, The Sheffield College, and principal of Hillsborough College, said:
“We are delighted to be partnering with Sheffield United FC.
“This is an exciting new opportunity for promising young athletes, some of whom may obtain a professional contract or agree terms at a semi-professional club on successful completion of the programme.
“It offers the chance to improve their performance but the course also equip students with the broader vocational knowledge and skills needed for a career in the football, leisure and sports industries, as well as the chance to go onto further study at degree level course at college or university.”