Outstanding start for Glyndŵr Wrexham Football Academy
Glyndŵr University is one of the best things to happen to Wrexham FC in its 150 year history, says Glyndŵr Wrexham Football Academy boss Lee Jones.
A £300,000 revamp over the summer saw the installation of a new playing surface, changing rooms, medical facilities and improved seating for disabled supporters at the Glyndŵr University Racecourse Stadium.This followed the establishment of the Academy (GWFA) in March, a partnership between the university and the club which allows professional footballers to study for a degree while training and playing for Wrexham FC or a feeder club based in the Welsh football league.
Former Liverpool FC star Jones, now heading up the Academy with Adam Owen, says none of this would have happened before the university purchased the Racecourse.“The club has never had massive amounts of money and it’s the first time in 60 or 70 years that we’ve had a new pitch at the stadium,” he said.
“Establishing the Academy has helped to take the relationship a step further. It couldn’t have started any better.“We’ve brought in 16 players from professional clubs who wanted to study for a degree and the environment and setup here has been perfect for them.”
Jones revealed that they built up the first Academy intake from a shortlist of 80 players initially identified by himself and Owen at the Exit Trials, an annual event for professional footballers released by clubs.30 players made it through to interviews and a trial match at the Glyndŵr University Racecourse Stadium before the final squad was assembled.
A further 16 players are set to be added to the GWFA for each of the next two seasons, taking the total to 48 Academy players by the start of the 2016 football season.Jones added: “We can provide a level of football which the players have become accustomed to and the university provides an education so it’s a perfect match.
“Joe Whittington and Corey Roper were the first two players from the Academy to travel with the first team squad when they made the trip to Forest Green Rovers. That’s great for us, and obviously great for them.“Corey was Leeds United captain from the age of eight to 18. Straight away we looked at him and thought he would be in the first team within 12 months. He’s progressed fantastically since he joined us and really gone on to a higher level.
“All the lads have trained with the first team and being involved with them gives every Academy player something to aspire to and a goal to work towards.“Every player progresses at a different rate and we’re confident that two or three more will follow in the footsteps of Corey and Joe sooner rather than later.
“The gaffer [Wrexham FC boss Kevin Wilkin] recognises that this not just a university football team. The lads are registered players with the PFA just as every first team player. The Academy is an expansion of the pyramid at the club and it’s given him some more options when it comes to improving the squad and helping to improve the club on the field.”