Club reaps benefits of youth policy

WHITTON United chairman Phil Pemberton believes that his club is proof that you don't have to abandon community values to enjoy success on the field.

Stuart Watson

WHITTON United chairman Phil Pemberton believes that his club is proof that you don't have to abandon community values to enjoy success on the field.

For many years Whitton have refused to give in to the growing trend of actively recruiting the very best young players from across the region, but have instead concentrated on developing children from Whitton and its surrounding estates.

It is a philosophy that has reaped its benefits with the club's first team, made up largely of youth team products, recently gaining promotion to its highest ever level of English football in the form of the Ridgeons League Premier Division.

Speaking after the club's latest youth festival, Pemberton said: “The priority of this club is to provide for the community. Sometimes you will find a real gem of a player and sometimes it doesn't always work that way.

“But we've found that if you try and develop the youngsters in the right way then you tend to reap the benefits. If you do things the right way with your coaching then you automatically build a good reputation and, as a result, attract more people to the club and consequently find the best players anyway.”

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He added: “The name of Whitton Football Club is now intrinsically linked to the Whitton estate. If you grow up in or around Whitton I like to think that those that are interested in playing football automatically think of us when they look to join a club.

“We believe it's about the all-round development of youngsters, not just with their football skills but also with their social and life skills. It's about providing them with an overall package.

“We are loyal to our players, we don't just get rid of them if they are not the best. I believe we have a duty and responsibility to develop any players that come to us as best as we can.

“In this age where a lot of money is being banded about at certain levels of football, clubs like ourselves see the future coming from within the club.

“If you can bring through decent players at all ages then obviously the first team will benefit from it. As a result, each year we have a pick of a number of youth players that can join our first team.”

West Ham and England player Kieron Dyer is the most famous product of the Whitton United youth system and so impressed is the former Ipswich Town midfielder with how Whitton has progressed that he has sponsored the club in recent years.

Pemberton said: “As a club we have no right to go to Kieron Dyer or any of our successful ex-players and ask for support, but we are proud when they do recognise what we are doing here.

“Kieron came along to one of our youth presentation days recently and gave out the trophies and the kids thought it was superb.

“There's no getting away from the fact that Kieron is a very big name in English football. He is someone that, no matter what background they come from, kids can look up to.

“Hopefully kids from Whitton can realise that if they dedicate themselves to the game then they too could possibly achieve big things in the game.”

He added: “This is an exciting time for Whitton United Football Club. Our first team is the highest it has been in its history and that is somewhere I think a club of this size should be.

“Any player that has the ability will get the chance to play in the first team over the coming years. It's not about age, it's about ability and that's been proven by some of the youngsters that have already come through into our first team.

“I would also just like to take this opportunity to personally thank all of our hard working volunteers for their ongoing commitment.”