Hampshire League double for Gosport Borough’s college academy team St Vincent Under-19s – in their first season

Gosport Borough’s college academy team are celebrating after winning a league and cup double in their first season.

By Simon Carter
Thursday, 7th April 2022, 12:09 pm

The St Vincent College under-19 side lifted both the Hampshire Colleges League Division 2 title and the Steve Perkins Cup.

Two Boro first team squad players - Joe Lea and Pat Suraci - headed up the coaching staff when the Southern League club launched their centre of excellence two years ago.

Lea, who stopped playing before Christmas to concentrate on his coaching, said: ‘The season has gone really well. Not just because we’ve won two trophies, but because of the attitude the boys have shown.

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St Vincent College celebrate after their Steve Perkins Cup final victory at Privett Park

‘There is a strong group who want to play for the first team at Gosport Borough and they believe they have a chance, and rightly so with the programme that we have set up.

‘If they are good enough, and Shaun Gale (first team manager) is very open to it and very involved, they will get their chance.’

The 16 to 19-year-olds on the two-year St Vincent Elite Football Academy programme, run in conjunction with Borough’s centre of excellence, study maths and English alongside at least 12 hours of football coaching, tactical analysis and fitness each week.

‘The fact we get to coach the boys four days a week means we really get to spend a lot of time with them,’ said Lea. ‘We get to put our ideas across to them and you can see that come out in the games.

St Vincent celebrate their Steve Perkins Cup final win

‘The college has been superb for the boys in providing the education side of things. They are very understanding that the boys want to play football and very supportive of what they do.

‘To have all the boys based in one place and to be able to use the pitches, the gym area and the sports hall has been hugely beneficial.’

The course gives the youngsters a grounding in how professional and semi-professional clubs operate. It also provides a coaching platform.

‘Stephen Culley, our captain last year, was really big on coaching and he is now studying it at Chichester University,’ Lea reported.

‘He has joined our centre of excellence and is helping coach the under nines to under 14s with a view to ending up with the under 18s and 23s.”

After sealing the league title, St Vincent’s 100 per cent season was capped with a thrilling 3-2 cup final win over Peter Symonds College at Borough’s Privett Park.

‘We were 2-0 up through Christian Bennett and Tom Rolls but the boys got a little bit complacent and they pulled it back to 2-2,’ said Lea.

‘To their credit they showed good character and scored the winner through Will Ayres with just a few minutes left and penalties looming.

‘A late winner like that means there are always some great scenes at the end.’

Lea added: ‘Winning isn’t everything at this age, it’s more about the individuals developing.

‘The idea is that as many of these boys as possible end up in the Gosport Borough first team.

‘Obviously not all of them will make it, but all of them have shown a great attitude, even those who haven’t had much playing time, so it doesn’t get much better than that for us.

‘We’ll be facing harder opposition in Division 1 (next season) but the ambition is to challenge there, go as far as we can in the cup again, and keep developing the programme as much as we can.

‘The signs are that we will have quite a few new players coming into the programme in September, which is great.

‘More quality players coming in will push the others and that’s how we keep improving and developing, which is what it is all about.’

*Find out more about the course at stvincent.ac.uk