Aldershot Town’s youth department will now benefit from an expanded relationship with Chelsea FC, who will assist The Shots with coach development and player recruitment.
The Blues’ own extensive network of youth scouts will refer players to Aldershot Town’s Head of Youth Sam Waters, if they think they will suit The Shots, and Sam confirmed: “Any players that Chelsea think have got potential for us, and are doing well in their grassroots teams, will be forwarded to us.”
“It’s a bit of a challenge to our existing players, as we will have better players coming in, but they have to get used to that level of competition, because they will experience that if they want to reach first-team football at any club. They need to learn to fight for their place,” explained Sam of the relationship which augments those already established at several other Premier League and Championship clubs.
“We give our players continual feedback, and will devise action plans to improve players whose places are under threat – because we don’t want them to leave – but the nature of the environment is that no child is guaranteed their place with us for the entire season.”
To handle the Department’s rapid growth, a Development Centre is being established, based at Ash Manor School, to coach players not in the existing Academy and Shadow Squads, with plans for a third tier of players being drawn up.
“We currenly have over 50 players waiting to come in on trial, and we’re already only six spaces away from our current capacity,” said Waters. “We’re in a really good position but hopefully more and more quality will begin to be introduced. Ultimately the very best players will come straight into the Academy Squad but we don’t want to turn players away from the Football Club.”
The Department’s burgeoning reputation is already spreading to other clubs, impressed at the professionalism and quality of the players. “We played Bristol City recently, a well-established Category 2 professional Academy which invests hundreds of thousands of pounds in its youth teams, and our players competed very well.
“Their coaches were so impressed with the players that we had and the style of football that we played that they have asked for another fixture in February. That’s real testament to what we’re doing, when we’re a non-league club with no funding and are effectively only five weeks old.”
That last fact, stresses Sam, illustrates that “things are only going to improve, with the staff that we have recruited. They have already gone above and beyond to ensure that our players get the best possible footballing education.”
A 2017 training camp in Lisbon is planned for the Easter weekend for the Under 16 teams – to allow time for the players to focus on their GCSE’s – with all other age-groups competing in a tournament at Real Madrid’s Bernabeu Stadium over two weekends in June.
A new weekly futsal session for Under 7 and Under 8 players has begun at Ash Manor School, to give younger players the best opportunity to develop their skills – for full details, click here.
“Futsal is such an important development tool, so these sessions will be invaluable for both us and the players,” concluded Sam. “If the Ash Manor session is sold-out we will look to open another centre in the area.” Futsal sessions are open to all children, of any ability, but places are limited so contact firstname.lastname@example.org for full details.