Teenagers across Hertfordshire, Essex and London can now apply for a new football and education scholarship which could ultimately see them become professional footballers, thanks to a new partnership between Cheshunt FC and Stevenage FC.
The new Elite College Programme (ECP) at the ambitious Ryman League North club commences in September and offers boys aged 16-19 a unique opportunity to get a first class education whilst participating within a professional football club environment.
The two year scholarship will see participants study for a BTEC Extended Diploma in Sport - the equivalent of 3 A-Levels – at Cheshunt’s Theobolds Lane stadium whilst also gaining qualifications to work in the sports industry, including FA coaching badges. They will also train for up to eight hours a week with UEFA 'B' qualified Stevenage FC Academy coaches and play in the British Colleges League.
The partnership marks the next stage in the ambitious plans of Cheshunt chairman Dean Williamson who is striving for success both on and off the pitch. Currently underway is the redevelopment of 16 acres of land at Theobolds Lane to provide a high quality training and playing complex, including a full size floodlit artificial pitch, all to Sport England standards. The stadium is also to undergo a significant refurbishment this summer, whilst on the pitch the club now has more than 15 teams, including a recently formed disability scheme.
Dean says, “This is a fantastic partnership with a Football League club that will provide an unrivalled opportunity for talented players to realise a pathway into non-league football and the professional game.
"We have a huge pool of promising young players at the club and are looking at the future of young player development within local grassroots football.
“I have been very impressed with the high standards and professionalism of the Stevenage Academy, and together with the first class facilities under development at Cheshunt, our Elite College Programme will be like no other.
He added, “Cheshunt Football Club has huge potential, and this College scheme is one of many steps in realising our aim to become a Conference standard club and academy.”
Cheshunt chairman Dean Williamson (left) with Darren Sarll (right)
Darren Sarll, Head of Youth at Stevenage FC, comments, “We’re delighted to launch this new Elite College scheme in partnership with Cheshunt FC which will benefit both clubs but most importantly young, willing talent looking to build a platform for their future playing and non-playing careers.
“Dean’s ambitious plans for Cheshunt impressed us greatly and match our own level of enthusiasm to develop the very best in local talent. Together we are looking forward to a long and successful partnership.”
He added, “Whilst similar schemes exist between clubs and colleges, ours is unique in that the boys who join us will have direct access to the same elite Academy coaches that work with our own under-18 team at Stevenage.
“Many graduates of our successful college scheme in Stevenage have gone on to enjoy successful careers both on and off the field. Burnley star George Boyd and Leyton Orient winger Shaun Batt are just two to have come through our ranks, with many others currently enjoying careers within football and other sports in roles ranging from coaching to sports science and analysis.”
Youngsters interested in the new Elite College Programme, which will start in September 2015, are invited to apply for one of two trials on Saturday 23rd May and Saturday 27th June. To register your interest or for any further questions, please email Ian Morris on IanM@stevenagefc.com.