This year has seen many firsts for the Academy, and our education programme has definitely been a key one.
We introduced our Apprenticeship Education Programme at the beginning of the season, bringing the initiative inhouse for the first time.
Kirk McGinn, our Head of Education, has successfully lead a team to support players through a Level 3 BTEC in Sporting Excellence and Performance.
He’s put together a dedicated team consisting of FA Coach Developer, Nathan Ellis, as well as current Academy Coach, Travis Wood, to help him.
The players have benefitted massively from the added support on their academic journey alongside their football, and no doubt there’ll be much more success to come.
As I’m sure everyone has seen, we now have our own STFC style badge, displaying our values and what it means to be a part of Swindon Town Football Club.
Before the end of last season, we spoke in depth about what it means to be from the area and and to represent the club, which eventually led us to three stand-out qualities: Industrious, Adventurous and Humility.
We have been talking about our values as staff in all our training sessions and games, ensuring we all display these every time we represent the football club.
From the Academy to the first-team…
The pathway from academy to the first-team is something we celebrate at Swindon Town.
We all want to see young players come through our ranks and not only make their debutsfor the first-team, but go on to achieve a regular starting berth and future success in the game.
Harrison Minturn has done exactly that this season, making his senior league bow against Gillingham and going on to make a further eight appearances.
For an academy, we thrive on having graduates making the step up to the first-team, and Harrison, at the age of just 19, has already gained experience across steps four and three in men’s football, adding League Two to his CV as well.
Harrison is regarded as a role model that young players look up to and we hope to see more follow in his footsteps next season.
Although he’s not with us anymore, we should also take a moment to celebrate Scott Twine’s recent success in gaining promotion to the Premier League with Burnley.
Scott was with Swindon’s Academy from Under-12s right up to the Under-20s, spending eight seasons with us.
On behalf of us all here at the club, we wish Scott all the very best at the highest level.
Player care and personal development…
This year, through EFL funding, we’ve been fortunate to secure a full-time Player CareLead.
Over the season, Ben Hawkins has offered players support both individually and as a team, during which players have been pushed out of their comfort zone through classroom sessions and guest speakers.
At the start of the season, our under-18s were given the opportunity to further develop their communication skills when put through their paces by military trained leaders with staff from RAF Brize Norton.
This was a great experience for the group and hopefully something we can re-visit in theforthcoming pre-season
The Foundation phase have looked at including breakfast clubs before home games this season.
These are really important to us as it allows our young players to learn together as a group and fuel properly before training or preparing for matches.
This in turn helps us create a positive culture while they can build new relationships with team mates.
Over the course of the season, we have not only created pathways for players, but staff too.
Kyle Taylor, our Lead Sports Scientist, moved on to Liverpool’s Academy while Ben Hawkins switched football for Formula One with the Williams team.
Both Kyle and Ben played a huge part in creating our values that have been the building blocks for the Academy, and for that we thank them immensely.
Success on the pitch…
Across the Academy we often talk about what success looks like?
Is it winning leagues and cups, the pathway from youth level to the first-team or offering professional contracts?
As we reflect on the season, we have had first-team debuts in both cup competitions and in League Two.
Our Under-16s won the South West Merit League which is something we’ve never done before.
Our Under-13s won a national tournament held at Leicester City where we beat Newcastle, Leeds, Ipswich, The Foxes and then Arsenal in the final on penalties, while our under-9 and under-10 age groups have experienced success in competitions hosted at both Luton and Cardiff respectively.
As we approach the final stages of the current campaign, our under-17s will be playing Lincoln City in the National Floodlit Cup Final at Sincil Bank while also competing in Merit League One for top spot.
And to top it all off, we host Westbury in the Wiltshire County Cup Final on Tuesday 9 May.
It would be great to see you all at the County Ground to back the boys to silverware.
Finally, I would personally like to thank all our Academy staff for everything they do. We couldn’t do it without you and our continued success is down to your hard work and dedication each day.
Alex Pike, Sean Wood, Lee Peacock, David Farrell, Kirk McGinn, Sam Grose, Travis Wood, Jack Carey, Baillie Coupland, James Close and all the part time staff have really allowed the Academy to evolve this season.
We are all looking forward to the next, and thank you all for your continued support.