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AS the Football Association embarks on a mission to improve the state of English football, a group of ex-professionals are joining forces to launch a new academy that will offer youngsters across the North-East an alternative route into the game.

The North-East Soccer Academy (NESA) has been set up by Darlington favourite Craig Liddle, ex-Sunderland defender Richard Ord and Billy Askew, who had spells with Middlesbrough and Newcastle in the 1970s and 80s.

The trio aim to offer youngsters in the age groups Under-9s to Under-15s the chance to develop their talent, whilst also educating them about alternative careers in the sport if they don’t make it as a professional player.

Based as Durham’s Soccarena, NESA also boasts partnerships with Middlesbrough Football Club, Durham City Football Club, Durham University, Durham Gilesgate Sports College, the Russell Foster Youth League and Scholarship Connect (set up by Andrew Muxworthy)

Liddle, who is part of Middlesbrough’s youth coaching set-up, admits it is a big coup to get the Championship club on board and hopes it will help identify young players capable of integrating into their highly-successful academy.

“It’s all about getting the best coaching for the kids,” Liddle said. “We’ve got some very experienced coaches and ex-professionals who have been involved in the game a lot of years.

“The opportunity for the boys to progress into professional football is really difficult and we just feel that we can give them the best options.

“It’s something I believe in, it’s not just a money making scheme, the option is there for the boys to progress and earn careers elsewhere whether it be physiotherapy, sports coaching or something else if playing football professionally doesn’t happen.

“We’re looking to give boys opportunities at every level. The dropout rate of kids going into academies and falling by the way side is huge. We want to offer top class coaching with the idea of players progressing into the academy system.

“On top of that we’ve probably got the best facilities in the North-East. You don’t get a bigger partnership than Durham University in terms of the education side and also the American scholarship idea is an exciting avenue for the boys to go down as well.”

With several football academies already out there, Liddle believes NESA offers a unique service in that players will be looked after should they not make it into an academy.

“I think the fact we can offer a partnership with Middlesbrough Football Club is a big draw, Liddle said. “With myself and Allan Clark working there we can keep a keen eye on any talent and hopefully push them into the academy system.

“But if not we’ve got various exit roots at all levels. We’ve got the links with the university and we’ve brought a partnership on board with Scholarship Connect, who offer the kids the opportunities to go to America and earn scholarships there.

“The kids who come in will work to a syllabus. There will be a lot of individual coaching, which is the way the FA are going now and it gives them every opportunity to progress if they are good enough.

“If they’re not good enough we will take care of them and make sure they are looked after on top of giving them other options.”

As well as their base at Soccarena, NESA are also planning to open another academy in conjunction with Billingham and Stockton College in the New Year.

There are also plans to start up a girl’s academy and Liddle revealed they already have an international star on board.

He said: “We’ve also got Jill Scott on board, who will be running a series of one-day courses for the girls and building girls academy will be something we look to do in the New Year.

“Jill will come in and work on building a soccer school and hopefully we will be able to provide a successful girls academy in the future as well.”

Trials for the North East Soccer Academy are being held during October half-term, as follows: Under-9s on Monday, October 28; U-11s Tuesday, October 29, U-13s Wednesday, October 30 and U-15s Thursday, October 31. All trials start at 10am and last for up to two hours. To book please call 0191 370 6640.



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