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Cambridge City branch out to give future players a positive education

Young stars could be following in the footsteps of Cambridge City striker James Hall. Picture: Rich Marsham
Young stars could be following in the footsteps of Cambridge City striker James Hall. Picture: Rich Marsham

Youth set-up to launch BTEC programme

Dig deep into the fabric of Cambridge City and you will uncover the work being done at all levels of the club.

The headline-grabbing act is of course the new ground at Sawston, and developments for the move there, but there is far more going on behind the scenes that is strengthening the Lilywhites across the board.

With the Cambridge City Ladies & Girls going great guns, there is also a significant structure being built by the youth section of the club, the latest of which is the launch of a BTEC programme.

Ben Farmer was appointed as City’s head of youth development last year, and with a blank page, he has gone about trying to create a pathway that joins the youth section with the senior club.

“The club wanted to make it a bit more professional than it had been – it had almost been run as a colts set-up so they had separate things at each age group,” he said.

“No-one was really doing the same things as each other, they were just doing their own thing.

“We have tried to galvanise it and get everybody working on the same page which has been brilliant.

“When I came to an interview with the board, one of the things I said we could look to do was to get an education programme in place for our football players.

“We’ve got a motto at City with the coaches that we want to develop hard-working, intelligent football players but we also want to send them away as good people. One of the parts of our pathway that’s been missing is an education programme.

“A lot of other clubs will call it a scholars programme, but we wanted to do something a bit for higher education.”

They have joined forces with Parkside Sixth Form and also Ipswich Town in order to run the BTEC Sport Level 3 or 2 from next September.

After a selection process, Parkside emerged as the best school to work with, and so they will deliver the programme but from Trumpington Community College in order to make use of the brand new facilities at the site.

City have also agreed a link with Ipswich which will see the Tractor Boys offer CPD events for coaches, the Lilywhites the chance to play against their academy side and the youngsters on the education programme the chance to visit the Suffolk side’s training facilities.

“It’s a great link for us and they’re really excited to be working with us,” said Farmer, pictured below.

“If we were going to link with a professional club, we didn’t want to lose our identity as a football club so that’s where the link comes now.

“They will join up with us and help with our recruitment of players.”

The overall aim of launching the BTEC is to give youngsters in the City youth system the opportunity to play football at the same time as pursuing their studies.

The level of detail also means that they have identified and put in place further opportunities once the players have finished the programme.

“We have a duty of care,” said Farmer. “We’re a semi-pro football club, we’re not in the process of telling boys that they will become pro-footballers but if they can earn a good wage by playing semi-pro football and they get to learn academically and get a good job alongside it, then we’ve fulfilled our promise to those players.

“We’ve created exit routes for them. We’ve linked up with a company that places boys in scholarships in America playing football, so they would go to university in the US.

“We’ve spoken to Premier Sport about links to the lads on BTEC Level 2s so they can go and do apprenticeships in sports coaching after that.

“We’ve got the sixth form itself, which has links with 10 universities, and our scheme will be linked to the University of East Anglia as well. We have thought about what happens after it with exit routes.

“If that means we lose boys to scholarship schemes in America, we hope they would end up playing for Cambridge City on their return.

“We’re a family club and want to create links with players so they have an affinity to the football club. Everybody doing jobs at the club has a close affinity to it, and there is a reason for us being there – and that’s what we want the players to come back and do.”

City’s youth section is growing rapidly. They have teams from under-13 to under-16, and an under-18 team. The aim is to get the development team currently playing in the Kershaw League to eventually be an under-23 side.

The college under-18s team will play in midweek Youth Alliance League.

Another change this summer saw Mehmet Mimoglu become chairman of Cambridge City Youth and Neil Midgley, the first-team coach, become vice-chairman, taking over from Phil Brasher and Dick Crampton, who had helped re-start the structure with Cambs FA.

“Having a link with the main club in Neil, it’s brilliant,” said Farmer.

“It’s closer to the first team than we’ve ever been.

“They are just taking it on from the good work that Phil and Dick have done. Now we’re run as close to a professional club structure as we can possibly get it.”

It means there is plenty to keep Farmer busy and adds to the overall feeling of positivity at City.

“We haven’t had a home for a little while, but with Sawston on the horizon it’s just a big time for the football club; and the roots of the main club – the youth set-up, the women’s and girls – are thriving,” he said.

“It’s just a really exciting time to be part of the football club. Now with this education programme going forward, it’s just going to be brilliant – I’m really looking forward to it.”

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