Town's youth team attend Blackpool Sixth FormAmongst over 2100 students at Blackpool Sixth Form College are a group of students who have much more on their plate than most young people their age.
They are the youth football team apprentices from Fleetwood Town Football Club. They attend Blackpool Sixth as part of their apprenticeship programme and take the BTEC Level 3 extended diploma in Sports Performance and Excellence.
They do this alongside an intensive schedule of training, development and matches for their club.
We spoke to four of the Fleetwood youth players this week, captain Andy Smith, 17; Jordan Hancox, 18; Louis Myers, 17 and Nathan Sheron, 18.
They were recovering from a tough cup game at Accrington which they lost narrowly, 2-1 in difficult conditions, with Louis scoring Fleetwood’s goal.
The youngsters reflected on how it was balancing football and study commitments. Andy said this had been difficult at first but with the support of his teammates and staff from the club and the college, things were going well.
“We are all together – that makes things much easier for us.” He said that the BTEC work fitted in closely with their football as they were able to apply what they learnt on the pitch and in training to their college assignments.
The youth team live locally as a group and this sense of togetherness is very evident. Jordan, who plays in midfield for the team, commented, “We are very used to each other’s company and are always helping each other out.”
The network of support offered by the club and the college has been particularly helpful to striker, Louis Myers.
Louis suffered an injury at the start of the season which kept him off the pitch for three difficult months.
During part of this time, he had to move back to Manchester and commute to college two days a week to keep up with his studies.
He managed to keep up and is now performing extremely well in his course as well as returning to the pitch this week and scoring in his first match back.
Nathan only joined Fleetwood this year after moving from the Liverpool FC youth team set-up.
He says that he is really enjoying the experience here and is benefitting from having more emphasis on his studies. “There’s lots of support and very good facilities here,” he commented.
Andy, Nathan and Louis have also played for Fleetwood’s Under-21 side, with Louis gaining a regular place in that team.
This is an impressive achievement for the youngsters to be playing with their more senior club-mates.
All four are hoping to make a career out of football and will be seeking professional contracts, ideally with Fleetwood Town, when they complete their apprenticeships.
They are all aware that the next stage is even more competitive and they appreciate the security that having a college qualification can bring them.
As well as studying at the college, the players have also had full access to the college’s careers support and help with thinking about possible university applications.
College staff member, Viv Black, works with both the Fleetwood apprentices and the parallel programme at the college for Blackpool F.C.
Viv commented on the wider benefits to the college of having the footballers studying here:
“We are proud that both our local professional football teams put their faith in us to deliver excellent qualifications and support for their young players.
“Having the footballers here is an important link to our communities which have deep footballing traditions.”
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