'Football is thriving in this area': Delight at progression of North Suffolk elite programme
PUBLISHED: 21:20 08 April 2019 | UPDATED: 08:04 09 April 2019
"It is not often that you get an Arsenal team come to town."
That was the reaction of delighted coaches as talented footballers from across Waveney showcased their skills in prestigious fixtures against Arsenal girls.
The North Suffolk Football Community elite programme’s girls teams’ hosted two sides from Arsenal for competitive matches in Lowestoft today (Monday, April 8) as part of a prestigious link-up.
The invitation-only programme, which features elite boys and girls from across the district, showcases talented players from a range of grassroots clubs in Waveney.
The football development programme provides opportunities for these players, aged between seven and 16, to further enhance their skills with respected coaches.
In the February half term, the girls teams – playing at U12 level and a mixed U14/U15 squad travelled to Hertfordshire to play Arsenal – with the return fixture in Lowestoft eagerly awaited.
Gaven Tipple, elite programme manager, said: “This is great for the area – look how busy Barnards Meadow is with the amount of people watching just two matches.
“Some really good football is being played and those standing out are the benchmark – the North Suffolk girls can see the progression and know what standard is required.”
With three age groups running in the North Suffolk elite programme for girls at the moment at U12, U14 and U15 levels, the boys elite squads run from U8 to U16.
The programme was developed as a result of consultation with local clubs and it continues to work in collaboration with the grassroots clubs.
Mr Tipple said: “It is an invtiational pathway where the most talented players get recruited to train weekly and play showcase fixtures throughout the season.
“The programme is an outstanding opportunity for young talented football players as it allows them to receive additional, specialised football coaching on a weekly basis.
“This is the third year. The programme has been extended as this is what the area has needed, and I am overjoyed at how it has taken off – it is now embedded within the area and regarded as an important progression for the players.”
With the programme “enhancing” the training that they already receive, more than 100 youngsters within the North Suffolk initiative have played matches this season at various age groups against Ipswich Town, Bury, King’s Lynn and Arsenal.
Mr Tipple said: “One of the most pleasing parts is that we get players from all different clubs.
“They become friends whether their club side on Sunday’s is Kirkley and Pakefield, Beccles or Waveney – seeing the camaraderie they have and how they develop and progress is so nice.
“The boys train at Walmer Road and Barnards Meadow, while the girls train at Barnards Meadow and the new Beccles 3G surface.
“The experiences and opportunites that they have throughout the season with North Suffolk elite sees the players up against professional and other high quality academies.
“This is a tribute to the standard of the grassroots clubs we have here in North Suffolk.
“Football is definitely thriving in this area and that is down to the hard work of the clubs that this invitational programme for the North Suffolk area has progressed to hosting matches against Arsenal in Lowestoft.
“And next month we will be taking teams to the Pilgrim Cup – a highly-competitve tournament with professional academies including Notts Forest, West Brom and Birmingham, which we are part of – offering further great opportunities to our youngsters.”