Football academy unveils first team of students
Glyndŵr Wrexham Football Academy (GWFA) has unveiled the first team of students aiming to net games, goals and a higher education.
The ground breaking partnership between Glyndŵr University and Wrexham FC has attracted 15 players from across the UK.
The majority of the squad played at Premier League, Football League or international level.
They have come from teams including Manchester City, QPR, Leeds United, Preston North End, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Leicester City and Burnley, to the delight of Academy managers Lee Jones and Adam Owen, and Wrexham FC director Barry Horne.
Supported by ambassadors Michael Owen, Aaron Ramsay and Neil Taylor, GWFA will allow the footballers to study for a degree at Glyndŵr while training and playing for the Dragons or a feeder club based in the Welsh football league.
With the backing of the Professional Football Association (PFA) and support from the League Football Education (LFE), the initiative will provide them with a unique educational strategy whilst still playing and training within a full time professional football environment.
The players will be both registered with Wrexham FC and students at Glyndŵr University, which owns the Racecourse stadium.
Everton FC legend Barry said the Dragons’ manager Kevin Wilkin and assistant Gary Mills were “impressed” with the line-up.
“These players have trained as a group with the full squad and really enjoyed it,” he said.
“Kevin and Gary were impressed with the lads, but like any other football situation it’s now up to them to prove they can do it.
“The football club and the university will give them every support going forward – we’ll see what they can do.”
Lee, who has been training the side over past weeks, revealed that the sporting side of the scheme will only work if the players make the grade academically.
“One cannot work without the other, it’s so important that they put the same amount of effort into their studies that they do into their football,” said the former Liverpool FC striker.
“They are a bright bunch of lads and a fine group of young men who have great energy and enthusiasm for the game.
“They’ve had a tough two weeks but it’s been enjoyable, they’re very fit and in good shape.”
Ahead of GWFA’s first pre-season game v Lex Glyndŵr, held at Colliers Park training ground in Gresford tomorrow (Friday) at 7pm, Lee said he believes some of the players are already good enough to play for the Skrill Conference side.
“Obviously that’s the manager’s decision, but it would be great to see at least one or two of them play for Wrexham FC this season,” he added.
“The first few weeks will be about making an impression as footballers, then in September they will begin their studies and it will become harder for them, but they are ready for the challenge.
“The players have had a good grounding at Premier League and Football League clubs so they are going to be of a standard for Wrexham FC; some will develop quicker than others and there is no great rush - I fully believe they are good enough.”
Glyndŵr alumnus Adam revealed how the GWFA concept dates back to his time as a young apprentice with the North Wales side.
“When I finished my YTS I wanted to stay on and be a professional footballer but I never pursued it to the highest level because I was also keen to carry on my education, as a back-up in case things didn’t work out,” he said.
“There were opportunities to do that in America but there was nothing in the UK that allowed me to be a footballer and keep up my studies.”
He added: “After spending a few years in the US and in Scotland and England on the coaching side, I approached Glyndŵr University with this idea.
“The opportunity was there and it’s now the perfect time for all concerned, especially the football club and the University – it’s a structure based on quality rather than quantity.”
Glyndŵr University Vice Chancellor, Professor Michael Scott, added: “We wish the players all the very best for the upcoming season, and the academic year ahead.
“I’m sure they will be very successful on and off the pitch with our support, and that of Wrexham FC.”
For more information, and for players wanting to find out if they meet the criteria to join the Academy, email firstname.lastname@example.org