Whites will be ready for first intake

By David Watters

Widnes are on a mission to make the most of their chance to benefit straight away from the growing success of the Northern Premier League Football Academy.

Newly promoted to the EVO-STIK League as North West Counties Football League runners-up, the Whites were due to welcome their first intake of students in September 2019 following a year of preparations to enter the ground-breaking academy.

Instead, with facilities already in place, they are set to arrive next month after the NPLFA was flooded with applications from potential students this summer and the new EVO-STIK League West club was invited to quickly launch a new programme with the help of the academy's experienced coaching and academic staff.

Widnes Town chairman Ian Ross told fans at the Select Security Stadium: “We were looking to join the NPLFA in September 2019 as one of their intake of new clubs, to get the chance to kick start a new programme this September is excellent news. The NPLFA programme has seen significant growth and we were delighted initially to have been chosen as one of the new clubs for the 2019-20 season.

“We know all about the NPLFA through their success and as soon as we were promoted to the EVO-STIK Northern Premier League we were interested in developing a programme at Widnes with the league's education and football programme. After speaking to the organisation, they have been inundated with applications from around our area since September 2017 and we are now on the lookout to form our first group in just seven weeks, a tough task but we are excited to see if we can make that happen.”

The chairman added: “It suits our club and I would imagine most clubs at our level with the resources we have, to have an organisation manage the whole process and continue managing and dealing with all the requirements of setting up and maintaining such a programme. Of course, we will contribute and support along the way as we want to attract students to our club and develop a wider community involvement and hopefully potential first team players.”

The club’s programme will initially be based at the Prescot Soccer Centre with trials taking place for the 20 places on offer every Monday and Wednesday in August at the venue in Warrington Road from 12 to 1.30pm after starting this week.

NPLFA officials are confident the Cheshire club will be ready to become the NPLFA’s 14th member with an active programme next month, a year before Stafford Rangers take up their newly booked place as club number 15 after following the regular entry path.

An NPLFA spokesperson said: “Normally we recruit for a full year with new clubs, however we have an overflow of students from that area who wanted to take part in the programme. We feel with those numbers we can kick start a new programme earlier than our normal procedure and the club are very enthusiastic and committed having originally signed up to start in September 2019. Widnes has an excellent catchment area and we are confident in the future they will have an excellent academy in place.”

The NPLFA was founded with the backing of the Football Association at five pilot clubs in September 2014 to provide career pathways into the football industry with students studying on two year BTEC courses. Since last season, students have been able to continue their education to degree level after the NPLFA teamed up with Loughborough College in the summer of 2017 to launch a new higher education partnership.

The Northern Premier League Football Academy's coaches are looking to enlist their next generation of champions over the coming weeks with summer trials now well underway at all member clubs. Open to Year 11 and 12 students looking to continue their education in September, the summer trials are the fourth and final chance of 2018 for potential students to showcase their talents and earn a place at the NPLFA, English football's first and only league wide academy combining football with further education.

Apply now at nplfa.co.uk/register. To see the NPLFA's latest promotional videos and success stories, follow on Twitter at @NPLFA or visit: www.nplfa.co.uk.

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