Pioneering scheme sees talent join City

PUBLISHED: 13:41 28 October 2006 | UPDATED: 09:46 14 September 2010

Welwyn Garden City schoolboy David Stephens with coaches at the University of Hertfordshire Laird Budge (left) and Bryn Clark.

Welwyn Garden City schoolboy David Stephens with coaches at the University of Hertfordshire Laird Budge (left) and Bryn Clark.

JONATHAN REDHEAD

A 14-year-old school boy from Hertfordshire has become the latest talent to join Norwich City's youth ranks as a result of a unique link up between the club and a top sporting university.

A 14-year-old school boy from Hertfordshire has become the latest talent to join Norwich City's youth ranks as a result of a unique link up between the club and a top sporting university.

David Stephens leaves lessons behind at Stanborough School in Welwyn Garden City one day a week to train with the Canaries under-18 squad at Colney.

The youngster then completes the rest of his weekly training programme two nights a week with other youngsters at the football development centre set up at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield two years ago to nurture local footballers aged between eight and 14 who have the potential to make it professionally.

David's talent was spotted by the centre's coach Laird Budge and the head of sports development at the sports-led university, Bryn Clark, when the youngster went for a trial two years ago.

He was offered the chance to train in Norfolk because of the year-old partnership which has been developed between the football development centre and the championship club.

As part of the partnership young players selected by City scouts can be invited to attend the university football development centre while coaches at the development centre can recommend any outstanding players to the Canaries.

The arrangement between the centre and the club means that David only complete the 120-mile round trip to Norwich for training once a week, fulfilling the rest of his training programme at the centre which is based at Hertfordshire Sports Village on the university's de Havilland campus, Hatfield Business Park.

Norwich City youth recruitment officer Terry Harvey said: “The unique scheme which David has undertaken is working superbly. We are extremely pleased with the development of David in such a short period of time.

“The association between us and the development centre has proved highly productive, because of the centre's professional coaching and its organisation. It has proved to be an effective medium for talented boys to gain experience and receive top coaching outside that of a professional academy set up.

“The standard of play by the Hertfordshire development centre is what we would have expected from our own full-time academy.

“The trust which the players have in their own ability and the hard work the coaching staff has put in, in a relatively short period of time is outstanding. Norwich City is proud to be associated with such a professional development centre.”

Budge said: “David's development over the last two years has been excellent. He has all the attributes to give himself an outstanding chance of reaching his goals and making it as a full-time professional footballer.”

At the moment six young footballers are undertaking the scheme and training with Norwich.

“Although you can never be certain of anything in football I would expect some of these boys to go on to a higher level if they continue to show the development and progress we have already seen,” he said.

David's mother Diane Wheaton, also praised the quality of the support and coaching the development centre has given her son.

She said: “The coaches have always got David to realise that he can always do better and they have really encouraged him, they haven't allowed him to become complacent. His success has been down to the coaches at the development centre spotting his potential.

“The partnership with Norwich means I only have to take David to Norwich for training once a week and to the university for other training sessions which suits me perfectly as I am a single parent and am a self-employed child minder.”

David is grateful for his mother's support and the help and the opportunity the football development centre and Norwich have given him. He said: “At the moment I am extremely happy doing which I enjoy best and aiming towards becoming an YTS scholar at Norwich.”

The university is not the only place where Norwich City has links. Since September 2001, the club has had a partnership with Easton College, on the outskirts of Norwich.

And during the past few seasons, several students on the college's sports courses have turned out for City's youth and reserve teams.

For more information on the link-up between the college and Norwich City go to www.easton-college.ac.uk

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