We’re one big family here at the Academy, so as Academy Operations Manager I work closely with most of the staff. I work alongside Academy Director, Huw Jennings, in strategic decisions and the evaluation and monitoring of the Academy. It’s an overarching role that encompasses the education programme, holistic development/player care, recruitment and helping the coaches maximise our players’ potential.
One of my main responsibilities is overseeing the education and welfare of the boys in the Academy – aged from nine up to 18.
At Fulham, the players’ education is of paramount importance, and every scholar will take part in our formal education programme, whether that is an Advanced Apprenticeship of Sports Excellence (AASE) or a continuation of their national education from overseas. These programmes are superbly managed by Luis Nedio our Academy Core Programme Co-ordinator, who has overseen a 100 per cent pass rate for the last six years.
For the younger ones aged between 12 and 16, we are proud of the education that we offer them at the Academy, including the pioneering Coombe School programme. In forging a close relationship with the local school near our Motspur Park Training Ground, we now have 50 of our schoolboy players enrolled at the school.
Previously these boys would be training just three evenings a week from 5pm to 7pm, with a Saturday morning session and a match on a Sunday. Now, in attending a school in close proximity to the Training Ground, we have been able to increase their football, in fact, we have almost doubled their contact time out on the grass.
Holistic Development/Player Care
Another area of importance is the administration of the Academy and our team of Charlotte Bellamy, Rachael Greenyer and Corinne Clowes work tirelessly behind the scenes. This will include organisational issues, compliance training, transport and helping to arrange tours and tournaments.
Of course, one of the biggest parts of my job is the players’ welfare, and alongside Dan Rice the Academy Player Care Manager we oversee a whole host of aspects.
I also work very closely with the Academy coaches, especially Geoff Noonan who oversees the nines to 14s, Mark Pembridge the Under-16 Manager and Steve Wigley our Under-18 Manager. Obviously there will still be a link to Kit Symons, who is now overseeing the Under-21s as a number of his players were part of the Academy too.
In ensuring those boys that are moving up enjoy a smooth transition, I will liaise with the Club’s Player Care Manager Mark Maunders, the support we provide is crucial for continuity.
Recruitment of Future Stars
Working alongside Malcolm Elias (Head of Talent ID and Recruitment), Gwyn James (National and International Youth Recruitment Manager) and John O’Brien (Head of London Recruitment (six to 16)) in recruitment is another important aspect of my role within the Academy.
When a boy comes in, be that from another part of the country or from overseas, it’s important to have knowledge of the player – that is paramount to their development. You have to work closely with the player and their parents and do all you can to help them integrate and settle into their new environment.
A Top Class Academy
The success of the Academy is there for everyone to see now, and following the introduction of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) we were awarded Category One status which is fantastic news for everyone associated with the Club, not just the Academy.
From the top down, this is a first class academy. Of course, the quality of coaching and facilities is important, but at the same time, so is the quality of people – and we have that as well. The spirit and ethos of the Academy is tremendous.
In leaving no stone unturned we have had great success in maximising the potential of our young players. The Academy has come so far in the past five years, the progress has been phenomenal. We want to continue that, and as a family we meet every tough challenge that we face along the way.