Run in partnership with education provider, SCL the club had to overcome the odds before a ball was even kicked, as we were one of fourteen clubs out of a total of twenty-eight that applied and got accepted into The National League U19 Alliance. An unprecedented occurrence for a new set-up.
Budding hopefuls attended a pre-booked trial and the successful applicants invited to an interview regarding the classroom side of things, before Mum and Dad had a chance to see what it was all about and meet the Teachers and Coaches too.
Courses covering sport, coaching and fitness – interspersed with Maths and Engilsh or Functional Skills, where required – could lead successful graduates to employment opportunities in any of those areas or see them move on to University, Apprenticeships, or a shot at professional/semi-professional football in either a playing or non-playing capacity.
On the pitch, the boys didn’t look out of place as they ended the campaign in fourth, despite competing against full-time clubs such as (Champions) Eastleigh, Aldershot Town and AFC Wimbledon; even knocking Luton Town out of The League Cup in a thrilling penalty shootout.
Back in July of last year, Luca Cocorrachio – who only spent a short time in The Academy before signing for our Premier League neighbours, Brighton & Hove Albion – started the very first friendly against South Park. He would go on to make his Senior debut in The Alan Turvey Trophy tie at Leatherhead on 12th September and enter the Bostik fray in the wind and rain of Bishop’s Stortford’s Pre-Christmas visit.
His last game in the front side came, for him, in a rather bruising ATT exit to Merstham but some people had clearly seen enough and Luca joined the pro ranks, at the tender age of sixteen. A huge endorsement for The Education Programme, which had only been going a few months !
Two more lads featured heavily throughout pre-season, namely Jasper Pattenden and Tyrese Mthunzi, as Josh Gould, James Beresford and Tom Colbran also earnt precious minutes under the watchful eyes of their Academy Coaches, Adam Hinshelwood, Nathan Bowen, supported by Cam Morrison and Aarran Racine.
Midfield hustler, Pattenden turned out on seven occasions, coming off the bench at Burgess Hill Town in The FA Trophy in late October and enjoying a full ninety in January’s home leg of the Lewes goalfests, preceding by a month the annihilation of Harlow Town, during which he opened his goalscoring account. Something that seemed unthinkable when he lay prone on the pitch at Leatherhead after a nasty but entirely accidental clash of heads, a week after the excitement of the Lewes match. A game that also marked the maiden league bow for striker, Josh Gould.
The tall forward had already proven to be the one bright spark in an otherwise dark December night at Eastbourne Town and would feature half-a-dozen more times before the clocks changed. Two of those occasions were from kick-off at home to Carshalton Athletic and Potters Bar Town in early February. Putting us in front against the former with his first Senior goal.
Mthunzi too made a number of squads, originally in the centre of the park, only to reinvent himself as an elegant centre-half. Unlucky not to see competitive action but definitely one to keep an eye out for over the coming months.
For more information about our Academy Education Programme, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org