"Two feet talking"
Linfield Football Club
CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE
09 Jan 04 - Pepsi enter 3-year contract with Linfield Centres of Excellence >> more.
The first Linfield centre of excellence was formed in September 1999. The centre started with 11 and 12 years old children in Shankill Leisure Centre, operating one night a week. After the first four months it became apparent that an additional centre was required, and this was added at Lisburn Rackets Club. From 24 children and 3 coaches on the first night we almost doubled these within the first four months.
In the summer of 2000 we took three teams (u11, u12, u13) to the Holland Cup in Amsterdam. The under 11s won their trophy, the under 12s lost in quarter-finals and the under 13s lost in the semi-finals on penalties. Also in the 1st yr 10s and 12s both won international tournaments in Dublin. A foothold had been gained, our profile was raised and relationships and reputations amongst other clubs and nations were built.
In the 2nd year it became clear that further expansion was needed. The number of children and coaches grew to 70 and 9 respectively. In the 2nd year we targeted 10 and 12 year olds and sent them to Holland again for a tournament in Almere. Teams playing included Ajax, Feyenoord and Rotterdam. In each age group were 11 Dutch teams representing the top-flight clubs in Holland and Linfield were the only non-Dutch representatives. Both sides lost in their semi-finals with the under-10s finished 3rd and the under-12s finished 4th. Both of these outcomes were very respectable considering that the Dutch sides trained 4 times a week and played together as a team at least once, whereas our teams had 2 sessions and did not play together as they played for their own clubs at the weekend.
All coaches within the centres of excellence are IFA licensed. Coaches come from different club backgrounds and must have a minimum of the European B licence with the head coach at European 'A' level - this is a UEFA criteria. All coaches have been through child protection and equity training and are all PAX checked (police check).
In the 2nd yr we decided to 'dip our toes in the water' with an evaluation of the scheme and to compare ourselves with similar schemes in Europe. We desired to raise our profile both nationally and internationally.
Currently we are into our 4th year with around 90 children and 12 coaches.
The 10s and 12s are to play on the Dutch/German border in Den Bosch between 29th May and 1st June 2003. The tournament is called the Top OSS Cup. Linfield will be the only UK representatives facing teams from Holland, Belgium, France, Czech Republic, Spain and Denmark to name but a few.
We are very confident that both sides will continue the success that has been achieved over the 4 years since the scheme began.
Our 10s, 11s and 12s will be using the vehicle of Co-operation Ireland on youth exchanges to play teams from County Leith while our 13s, 14s and 15s are embarking on a programme with Letterkenny schools representative teams. Former Linfield player Tony Gorman will be liasing on behalf of the schools from his hometown. It is anticipated that this will develop the players social, physical, personal skills.
Currently ten of our under 15s are being integrated into the under 16 structure at Windsor Park. This is the first time that players have fed through to the parent club. This will have an obvious positive knock-on effect for the future.
Tribute has to be paid to all the coaches and managers of the junior clubs who have provided the children for the scheme. Without their co-operation, assistance and expertise the scheme would not exist. Linfield wish to publicly take this opportunity to thank them for this and for allowing us to have access to some of the best young players that Northern Ireland has to offer which ultimately will benefit Linfield Football Club.
In December 2002 we accepted an invitation, in principle, pending funding to compete at Home Farm FC, Dublin, in mid-august 2003. Teams competing will be Home Farm, Linfield, Leeds United, Celtic, Liverpool and Manchester United. This is at under-18 level. The centre having proved itself in mainland European competition will now take on some of the best that the UK and Ireland have to offer. The side will be under the continued leadership of Phillip Mitchell. Such competitions can only prove invaluable in the development of our young players at Windsor Park.
Utopia is for us to offer our teenagers a 3-year
scholarship that allows them to have access to the facilities and training
in the country coupled with an education programme. We are envious of
our counterparts in the FAI that has such a programme offering a 5-year
paid scholarship with the support of the Government in the Republic. In
an ideal world this is the vision we have for Linfield's football development