COLERAINE Football Club’s Academy set up has been shot into the spotlight in recent weeks as the emphasis on producing young talent grows and grows.
First team boss Oran Kearney spoke just last week about the importance of the Academy bearing fruit as he handed a starting spot to teenager Adam Mullan against Linfield.
It seems that Mullan could just be the start of things to come.
The hours of hard work and dedication put in by the countless volunteers in the academy is paying dividends.
In the past 12 months two of the academy’s Under-13 players have been away on trials to Premiership giants Chelsea and Fulham.
“It was a fantastic experience,” said Robin Gawne, whose son Alexander, a centre forward, was on trial at Craven Cottage.
“It really is a different world over there.
“The facilities are excellent as you would expect for a Premiership club, but also the coaching set up is something else.
“The players Alexander was training with all receive 15 hours coaching a week on top of the game time.
“It’s frightening in comparision as to what the young players in Northern Ireland receive.
“Alexander did well but when he first went over in January last year he was only 11 and it was a big thing for someone so young.
“Fulham were fantastic though. Even though they are a massive club they are a very family orientated club.
“We were lucky to see a couple of first team players while we were there.
“As I say it was a great experience and opened Alexander’s eyes as to what the life of a professional footballer can be like.
“It’s hard work though and young players in the academy know they have to work hard to succeed at any level of the game.
“It’s great to see the academy bear fruit and hopefully there will be more to come over the months and years.”
Limavady defender Sam McClelland, who is a team-mate of Alexander’s, was invited over to Chelsea last month.
“We went to a special trial over here first,” explained his dad Richard.
“Sam did well and was lucky enough to be asked over to Chelsea so they could take another look at him.
“We were picked up at the airport before heading off to their training ground at Cobham.
“Sam had a session with their Under-12s the next day and on the Saturday we were able to watch the first team’s game against Arsenal.
“On the Sunday Sam played in three 20 minute games for Chelsea at West Ham.
“Again he did well and it looks like he will be going over again next month.
“It’s a big step up. The football is played at a higher tempo and the guys are just that wee bit stronger and physical.
“We bumped into up and going Chelsea star Nathan Ake on the train and Sam got a wee chat with him.
“He is knocking on the door of the first team. Even at Chelsea it’s important for young players to come through and challenge for the first team.
“It’s great that both Sam and Alexander have been given this opportunity and who knows what may come of it.
“It shows the Academy, which they have both been going to for a number of years is producing young players, whether it be for Coleraine’s first team of the future or maybe even into the professional game.”