Academy Weekly: Alumni programme begins
Even with many of our young players away experiencing international football over the last week, the Academy has enjoyed a busy period, welcoming graduates back as part of a new, innovative scheme and sending out current talents on our unique Pro Experience Programme.
Here’s everything you need to know from the last seven days at the Academy…
PRO EXPERIENCE PROGRAMME
A dozen players in total have spent some time at Football League and National League clubs across the country, namely Barrow, Forest Green Rovers, Portsmouth, Barnsley, Blackpool and Altrincham.
This innovative programme was launched in the 2021/22 season and promotes independence for the players, some of whom will be spending time away from United for the very first time. The boys get a true taste of a senior football environment, experiencing first hand the training standards and situations that come in the build-up to important matches.
Upon their return to Carrington, players will present their experiences to coaches to cement the learning process. The boys will also, of course, bring what they have learnt back to our training environment and will be better prepared for a step up to our first team or, indeed, a future loan. Staff will visit the players at their clubs to show support but also to help build their network and develop their skills.
ACADEMY ALUMNI SCHEME LAUNCHES
Several former Academy players returned to Carrington last week to participate in a training camp devised to support them in a variety of different ways. The graduates involved were all at different stages of their careers, with some seeking a new playing contract at another club and others beginning to consider their post-playing career options.
The main focus of the week was coaching and physical preparation, but the players also engaged in a series of workshops to stimulate them and help emphasise the number of opportunities available to them after they ‘hang up their boots’.
Andy Laylor (Academy player support co-ordinator) was the driving force behind the organisation of the event, which is unique in English football. It’s yet another example of the Academy pushing the boundaries of innovation and player care.
The coaches at Carrington have always been proud of how they’ve continued to engage with graduates long after they’ve left United, but the Academy Alumni programme seeks to formalise this approach. There is a lot more work to do before the official launch of the programme, and as many as 200 players will be contacted in due course, but this was a fantastic start.
“It’s one thing to have an informal network of support for young people,” Nick Cox, director of Academy, told us. “But we believe it’s our duty to formalise that somewhat.
“We want to make sure that any boy who has spent time at the club has the opportunity, once they leave us, to feel supported and to help them harness some of the skills that they would have developed, whilst they were with us, to go on and be successful in another walk of life: whether that’s in or out of football.
“This is about offering some additional support in terms of informal education, workshops and creating a network, letting the young players have a network themselves where they can share experiences, ideas and skills to the betterment of everyone.”
Joe Thompson, a graduate himself, is playing a key role in inviting other graduates back to the club and engaging with them to work out the best methods of organising the Alumni programme.
“I’m very, very excited,” he said of the project, just after getting his boots on to train.
“For me, it’s about taking what I learnt through my career, including life skills, and being able to pass that message down and be a soundboard and, ultimately, create a network where, whoever you are or whenever you leave, you know that you’ve got a home here. It is United and it is forever.
“Any kid that comes in this building should be immensely proud. It’s something that so many children around the world crave and want, so we should never shy away from that achievement. It’s going to come to an end at some point - even if you have a 15-20 year career at the club - and so it’s about passing that message down, the core values that you learn here. And I always say, the coaches here taught me things way beyond the white lines of a football pitch, and that’s what I’m trying to do here.”
You can read more about the burgeoning Academy Alumni programme in a feature piece later this week on ManUtd.com and the United App. In mid-December, Inside United will take an in-depth look at the programme with exclusive insight from all those involved. You can pre-order the magazine now.
FA YOUTH CUP DRAW MADE
Manchester United will face either Bolton Wanderers or Derby County at home in the FA Youth Cup third round. The game must be played before Saturday 16 December and will be decided by a penalty shootout if the scores are level after 90 minutes and extra time.
United are the most successful club in FA Youth Cup history, winning the competition on a record 11 occasions, the most recent of which was in 2022.
COMING UP THIS WEEK
The Under-18s return to action after the international break with a trip to Southampton in the U18 Premier League Cup. It’s an 11:00 GMT kick-off on Saturday 25 November. The match will be available to watch live on MUTV.