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Above: Reuters film Academy manager Liam O'Neill putting his new apprentices through their paces on the Butlin Road 3G as part of a Chinese documentary
Friday, 22 June 2018
Last Updated 7.45am

Academy Off To St George's Park

Rugby Town's new Academy of Football faces its first competitive test next week, after it was invited to take part in a prestigious tournament at the FA's national football centre at St George's Park in Burton-on-Trent.

Valley's Under 19 academy squad will play in the Premier League VAR Trophy, which is organised by the PGMOL - the body responsible for the match officials in English professional football.

The event is used to trial and train the officials, and all of the current Premier League's referees will be on duty at the event.

Town's Academy Manager Liam O'Neill was looking forward to the tournament, which sees his side kick-off with a game against Kidderminster Harriers on Tuesday July 3rd, before further group games against Boreham Wood and Dover Athletic. He said: "It really is a cracking tournament.

"St George's Park is an excellent facility and it's a great experience for the lads to play there.

"My Nuneaton Town team played in it last year and we won the competition, so hopefully we can repeat that success again.

"The vast majority of the squad that played it in last time round have now joined us here at Butlin Road, so they have that valuable experience behind them and know what a tough challenge it is.

"We will play a minimum of five games within three days, so it's a very testing schedule. Fortunately the accommodation provided is top class and gives the players the opportunity to rest and recover between matches.

"In Boreham Wood and Dover, we are up against two of the top teams outside of the EFL, so it's a massive test for us - but one we will thrive on."

The St George's Park tournament comes hot on the heels of another invaluable experience for the scholars on the recently established full-time Football/Education BTEC programme after the world renowned media agency Reuters visited Butlin Road with a Chinese state TV crew to film a documentary about academy football in England.

O'Neill continued: "When I received the request from them it was an instant yes. For us to attract this sort of publicity and interest in such a short period of time since we announced the launch of the academy is fantastic.

"It gave our academy scholars a wonderful opportunity to showcase their talent in front of what should be a massive audience.

"The lads were filmed during and after training, and were interviewed too. They naturally felt the pressure of training with cameras so close to them, but this is all part of the valuable learning process they are going through and will help their mental development."

Chinese TV are broadcasting the short documentary to coincide with the World Cup and the Reuters China correspondent Chloe Wang explained: "In China we are trying to find our way in the world's game. There are huge finances there in terms of football, but the foundations need to built if there is to be longevity.

"By producing this documentary on how academies work in the country of the world's greatest league - the Premier League - it will give ideas and knowledge to our top clubs.

"We had a great day working with Liam and his scholars, and they have given our viewers a very detailed insight of football academy life in England. We were very impressed by how organised and efficiently things are run, and hopefully in China we can follow this excellent example.".


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