Fleetlands relishing the chance to find ‘unpolished diamonds’ for their Youth Development Centre

Steve Ellis is relishing the ‘big challenge’ of growing the Fleetlands Youth Development Centre.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 8:29 am
One of the Fleetlands youth teams in 2020/21

He took up the role at the Hampshire Premier League club less than a year ago, having previously worked as Gosport Borough’s academy manager during Fleetlands chairman’s Iain Sellstrom’s, below, time at Privett Park.

Prior to lockdown, the Coptermen had been running teams at under-10, under-11, under-12 and under-14 in the High Performance League, a Hampshire FA-affiliated competition.

‘It’s a really good league, and it’s getting stronger and stronger,’ said Ellis.

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‘The great thing about it is that it focuses solely on development.

‘Players can play a year up or a year down, you don’t get that in normal grassroots football.

‘The games are every other Saturday which means for the kids they can play in the HPL one week and then play with their friends in the Mid Solent or Portsmouth Youth Leagues the other week - it gives them a great balance.

‘Before lockdown, we were also training twice a week - 90-minute sessions - at St Vincent School.’

Fleetlands are planning to welcome three new sides at under-10, under-12 and under-15 level for 2020/21 - teams who are currently playing in the Mid-Solent Youth and Portsmouth Youth Leagues under a different name.

Ellis is also aiming to add teams at under-17 and under-18 level next season with a view to supporting reserve team boss Steve King.

‘It’s a big challenge and it will be a lot of hard work, but we need to add more teams to help support the reserves,’ said Ellis.

‘I know there’s a lot of unpolished diamonds out there we could get.

‘We need to put in place a structure where players know if they do well they can progress.

‘We’re in a good position, bang in the middle of Gosport and Fareham. That will hopefully give us a bigger pool to fish from.

‘It will come down to what we do on the training pitch, we need to set standards that ensure players will want to come to us.

‘We have achieved a lot in under 12 months. We will be in a good place when we start next season - the foundations will have been laid.

‘The plan is to grow the youth section. We want players from under-7 to under-18 levels to come and join us.

‘We’d also love to hear from any coaches, from any dad who wants to bring his child over.

‘We want all our volunteers to grow with us, to build the brand.’