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Chairman's Column 12.12.2023

Chairman's Column 12.12.2023

The importance of youth football, especially at our level, is impossible to overstate. Here at Biggleswade United our primary aim has never been about producing great footballers, but rather about helping to transform, through the medium of football, enthusiastic youngsters into decent, focused adults.

It has never been about just winning trophies and titles, although if that happens along the way it is a welcome bonus. Nor should playing for any of our youth teams be seen as a potential pathway to footballing fame and fortune because it isn't.

There are, of course, those people out there that will be more than happy to raise your hopes - and lower your bank account - by promising you that your children are precisely what the footballing world has been waiting for. They almost certainly aren't.

To even begin to have any chance of making it to the very top you first of all need to be taken on by any one of the top academies and not those money-grabbing, dream-shattering shysters who exploit youngsters and those parents keen to enjoy vicarious success via their children.

Believe me, if your child is good enough then you won't have to go to the big clubs' academies, they will almost certainly come to you.

I have no figures about girls' football but figures published last year showed that of the 1.5 million boys who played organised youth football at any given time in England, only around 180 were signed professionally by a Premier League club. That's 0.012%!

And that is just the beginning. Around 50% of all players will leave the academy system before they are 16. Recent data has shown that of all former elite academy players 97% never go on to play in the Premier League.

I always say that here at Biggleswade United we prefer to work to the old fashioned maxim that says that in football as in life you should only ever make promises you can keep, and then keep all those promises you make.

So far, so good especially under the magnificent stewardship of our Head of Academy Dan Watkins, although he would be the first to admit that a lack of playing facilities and infrastructure will always make our task arduous.

But it has been a really positive start to the season. We have managed to retain all of the age groups that we had last season and have built on those foundations by adding another team at U9 and two new teams at U7.

As of this week we currently have 89 players registered to the youth teams at the club. All this is down to the hard work of our coaches and volunteers who are relentless in their efforts to recruit players and give them an engaging and exciting environment to learn, develop and most importantly enjoy playing football.

Our U7's are very new to football but are in great hands with Josh, Kayleigh, Craig, Andrew and, former Lioness, Leah. It is a joy watching them on a Sunday morning. They have an enthusiasm that is infectious and we are starting to see things click on the pitch.

Our U9's continue to go from strength to strength. They are at an interesting age in football as they move from 5 to 7 a side and begin to show positional awareness and understanding of tactics.

Both the Reds and Blues are showing this and playing some great football. The efforts of this group has not gone unnoticed outside of the club either, with Toby from the blues being invited to the Norwich City academy where he will be joined by his dad, and blues coach, David.

Off the pitch, coaches Josh and Kayleigh have both recently been accepted onto the UEFA C qualification.

The U10's have had a difficult start to this season with us finding ourselves needing to recruit players and coaches at short notice at the end of the summer. However, massive thanks has to go to Mandy, Lee, Joe and Kevin for rallying together, doing an amazing job in getting players in shaping a team that are really starting to grow and show potential.

We have our girls team at U14 that we are really proud of. One of only two girls teams in the town, Craig and Rob have built a side that is not only competitive in their league, but they provide much needed local football opportunities for the girls in our community. There is a handful of players in the squad that had no previous experience in playing but they have really hit the ground running and added some great depth to the squad. Everyone at the club would like to send their best wishes to winger Danni who is recovering from a fractured wrist. Get well soon and we hope to see you terrorising defences again soon!

Finally our U15's, who have a new look coaching team in Ed and Sean and have added some very talented players to an already competitive squad. Performances have been very good on the pitch and that is reflected in the results and league table so far. I am certain that there are some players in this group that will be knocking on the door of the reserves in the next couple of seasons.

Behind the scenes, we are working on fund raising so we can continue the work we are doing and improve on many aspects of the player experience. We are always open to new sponsors and coaches looking to join our club and make a difference. If you would like to get involved, please email our head or Academy at danwatkins@biggleswadeutd.com

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