Cirencester Town FC
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In 1996 the club entered a partnership with our local Tertiary College, Cirencester College, to integrate the skills development of young football players from school with their continuing education. While professional clubs do operate extensive scouting networks to source young players with potential, not all boys or their parents are comfortable with a system that makes intensive football development a priority above the personal and education development of the boys.
The Academy system provides an alternative route. In Cirencester we are fortunate to have a very highly rated, extremely well equipped College that provides a full range of education programmes that integrate well with the football programme.
Our first Academy Director of Coaching, Dave Hockaday, was the first in the country to develop an Academy. He recruited locally but also offered another chance to boys released from professional clubs at the age of 16, this time with an emphasis on education as well as on football.
His teams were very successful, the Academy winning the National College Championship, the English Schools FA Colleges Cup, the Gloucestershire County Colleges Cup and the South West Colleges Cup. Several players were signed by League clubs, others were picked up by Conference clubs, and several progressed into the Cirencester Town First Team.
Inevitably, such success led to professional clubs asking Dave to develop the Academy concept for them. He has worked with Watford FC, and after a spell at Leicester City moved on to become Director of the Academy at Southampton. In September 2009 he was appointed manager of our Conference neighbours Forest Green Rovers.
Steve Lowndes replaced Hockaday. A Welsh international and an A licence coach as well as holding a degree and teaching qualifications Steve knows his football. His teams have been equally successful, adding the SW Counties Youth League Cup to the honours board as well as repeating the titles won in previous years.
They have regularly progressed to the later rounds in the FA Youth Cup, winning matches against the Youth teams from professional clubs, and have often been the final non-league club remaining in that competition.
A number of players have been capped at U18 level both for English Schools and English Colleges as well as the Welsh Schools international team. In recent years, Universities in the United States have been offering scholarships to our 18 year olds - they play at national standard in the US Collegiate system as well as completing a degree.
Cirencester Town established the Academy model and are the first club to be recognised at the FA Charter Standard. The prgramme at Cirencester College has been awarded National Training Award status, the highest level of recognition.
With an increasing number of clubs establishing Academies, the competition to recruit the best schoolboy players has increased. The English Colleges FA now has over 100 Academy teams in their competitions, the Football Conference Youth League now has 5 Regional Divisions and the South West Counties Youth League Division 1 is made up entirely from senior non-league clubs in the region. The standard is high.
The College curriculum has expanded, offering an even wider range of education options, and their already impressive campus extended. And the club, having moved to The Corinium Stadium in 2002, not only has quality pitches but also provides The Arena, the largest indoor football training area south of Manchester.