Barrow AFC, in partnership with the Performance Centre, is proud to announce a new three-year vision for the support of young footballers which will take effect from next season.
Subject to approval from the EFL, the Club will be applying for a Category 4 EFL Academy licence which will allow us to sign players aged 16-18 on scholarship terms. This will provide players with the opportunity to be coached by our UEFA qualified staff with a view to progressing to the First Team or beyond.
This will replace the current Under-21 structure which was successful in allowing home-grown players the opportunity to play in the National League, with recent graduates Jamie Hodgson, Nathan Reid, Christian Sloan and Nathan Waterston featuring in league and cup campaigns.
New roles will be created to support the development of the young players at the club, with an Under-18 Head Coach being complemented by part-time analysis, sports therapy and sports scientist roles.
Another major change will see a number of our current Performance Centre sides register into the Junior Premier League (JPL), with the Under-16s set to pilot the programme next season. This means the players will train twice a week and play in a highly competitive league as Barrow AFC players.
Here is an outline of the changes set to be made and how they will be brought into effect:
- The Performance Centre will now become Barrow AFC Academy
- U16s will enter the JPL
- U21s will be removed from the pathway
- A Category 4 Academy team will be created and entered into the EFL North West Alliance League
- A selection of teams between U13-U16 will enter the JPL
- U18s to continue in the EFL North West Alliance League
- A selection of teams between U11-U16 willalso enter the JPL
Head of Youth, Liam Reid commented: “The Centre was created over 10 years ago by Neil Doherty to support local players in reaching their full potential. For many seasons we have felt that the initial aim no longer meets the ambition of the Club and we have now outgrown the original ethos of the Centre.
“For the last few months, Craig Rutherford and I have met with Paul Hornby, Tony Shearer and Levi Gill, discussing and presenting a vision that reflects where this Club aims to be. We have discussed our plans with the Premier League and EFL who are complimentary of what we currently have.
“However, it is crucial that we launch our own Academy. It’s the right thing for the Football Club in the environment we now find ourselves in and can only be positive for local football. It fulfils the vision we have and is a huge part of where we want to be.
“We’ve always said that there is a talent in our town; everybody will agree on that. This ensures we can harness that talent in a professional environment but also allows us to spread the net farther and wider in the hope that we produce some exceptional talented youngsters.
“Supporters always want to see local players. They become our heroes and our legends. As a supporter I want this too. I’m not saying this is a guarantee, but it is the next step for providing the opportunity for us to build on the work of grassroots coaches to build our next set of heroes.
“We must thank all the Under-21s, past and present, for getting us to this point. The highs of their first season winning the Lancashire U21 League really propelled what we are doing and, although it’s sad to lose them, it’s thanks to them we are now at this point.”
Barrow AFC Chief Executive Levi Gill has also welcomed the news and commented: “Establishing a Category 4 EFL Academy is a natural progression for Barrow. Throughout this journey we’ve always said that the community and the town have to be involved at all levels of this Football Club, and now young local players once again have a pathway into the First Team.
“The work that Craig Rutherford and in particular Liam Reid have done with the Performance Centre in recent years has been outstanding and the Club owes them a debt of gratitude. Without their efforts and expertise, there wouldn’t be a platform to build on. Moving forward we want to keep both of them at the centre of our plans so they can continue to shape and influence the Academy as it becomes established.
“These are truly exciting times for the Club but surviving in League Two isn’t enough. To stay at this level year on year we need to become sustainable and establish a supply line of talented players who can have an impact in our senior squad. This announcement marks the beginning of a transition that we hope will generate the excitement and support of the local football community.”