Academy to feed Sheffield United

SUFFOLK New College's renowned football academy could become a provider of future Sheffield United stars following an unlikely link up between the two.

SUFFOLK New College's renowned football academy could become a provider of future Sheffield United stars following an unlikely link up between the two.

Although 175 miles separates the Blades from the Ipswich-based PASE football scheme (Program of Academic and Sporting Excellence), the Championship side have taken a keen interest in John Coupe's professional set-up.

The South Yorkshire club first became aware of the Suffolk New College football academy - a scheme which gives footballers between the ages of 16 and 18 the opportunity to train on daily basis, feed into Whitton United's first team and also continue their studies - thanks to their Ipswich-based scout Ronnie Mauge.

A former Trindad & Tobago international, Mauge became a fans' favourite at Plymouth Argyle during the late-90s after becoming one of Neil Warnock's first signings at the club.

Mauge has remained good friends with Warnock since then and was appointed by his former boss as Sheffield United's scout for London and the East Region before the now Crystal Palace manager left the club last year.

Subsequently Mauge, who has long admired the football programme at Suffolk New College, organised for two of the academy's most promising players to have a two-day trial at Sheffield United recently.

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Midfielder Oliver Brown, 16, and goalkeeper James Waters, 17, travelled up to Sheffield United's Forsyth Academy to take part in double training sessions on both a Monday and Tuesday.

Over their two days at the club the Suffolk-based youngsters trained with the likes of experienced first team players Keith Gillespie, Paddy Kenny and James Beattie.

Sheffield United are now considering whether to look at that particular duo further and are said to be keen on using Suffolk New College as their gateway to young talent in the eastern region.

The academy aims to give talented older teenagers who have either been missed or released by professional clubs a chance to still establish themselves in the game.

Academy head coach John Coupe travelled up to Sheffield with his players. He said: “The club were hugely welcoming and made both players feel very comfortable.

“We told them how we are trying to bridge the gap between professional football and the local game and give some of these youngsters a second bite at the cherry and they were very interested.

“I have spoken to the chairman (Terry Robinson) and he is keen to set up a formal tie with us.”

Mauge said: “John Coupe and Lennie Pack are running an excellent course here in Ipswich and Sheffield United back it 100%.

“I highlighted the scheme to the club because I was a late developer myself and, through joining a similar scheme to this one in East London, I was able to go on and enjoy a career in professional football and play internationally.”

Suffolk New College hold their next open days, which include information on the PASE scheme, on the following dates: February 2 2009, March 26 2009, April 25 2009.

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