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Sunday 24 February 2008
Youth and Community New Year update

In the first of a new series of articles reproduced from the match programme here is an edited version of an article by Youth and Community Director Nigel Higgs that appeared in the Ashford Town(Middx) programme on 8 January 2008.

The last half of 2007 presented the Youth and Community department with many challenges. A number of staff changes have left us fairly short-handed and have impacted several areas of operation.

New Year is traditionally a time for looking forward, but I would like to start this update with thanks to some departing staff and volunteers from the Youth and Community team over the last 6 months. Early in the season, Youth Team stalwarts, Ben Canham and Reg Beard stepped down from their roles as Assistant Director and Secretary respectively. Ben and Reg have offered fantastic voluntary support and worked tirelessly to help get the youth section up and running since its beginnings in 2003. We also parted ways with Academy head Steve Brindley and under 18 manager Nick Mason. Steve performed a number of roles in his 4 years with the club, including first team scout, reserve team manager, adviser to the Chief Executive and was the driving force behind the success of the under 19s first full season at Nescot.

Nick, who managed AFC Wimbledon youth teams for three and a half seasons, won several trophies for the club, including a West Surrey Youth League premier title and Surrey County Cup double in 2006-07 and brought many promising players to the club. Unfortunately, Nick felt unable to continue with his U18 role due to other personal commitments and we wish him well.

Football Development Officer James Thorne left the Community Football Scheme (CFS) last summer. James was a key figure in helping the club to establish its own very successful scheme in the two years following the abrupt departure of the Wimbledon FITC from Merton. James was also coach to the under 19 squad for two seasons and left his mark with the players as an innovative and enthusiastic young coach. We thank them all for their expertise, enthusiasm and commitment.

Looking ahead in 2008, the new reserve team manager Ryan Gordon will be working closely with recently appointed under 19 Senior Coach, Mark Robinson, first team manager Terry Brown and me on plans for re-vitalising our college based youth development programme. The operation of 3 squads largely made up of youth players at under 18, 19 and reserves has stretched our playing resources and have resulted in us having to withdraw from some U19 fixtures.

Jeremy Steele, Senior Community Coach on the CFS is working hard to build stronger links to local schools and has set up a Community Academy for promising primary school boys with feeders into our mini-soccer teams. Jeremy also coaches the midweek under 18 sides playing in the Isthmian Youth League and has written in the programme of his excitement about some of the young prospects we have at the club.

Finally, it is very satisfying to see young players like Luke Pigden and Stevie Gilbert beginning to force their way in to first team reckoning. Both boys have been with the club since they were 14 years old and shows that the club can benefit from its investment in the youth set-up.

If you would like to help for the youth development programme and community football scheme, we are looking for volunteers, ideally with a background in youth football, general administration or community work to cover some of the many jobs that keep this area of the club progressing. If you feel you have the necessary skills please contact Nigel Higgs via the club office or by emailing Nigel Higgs here

We are also interested in hearing from sponsors who would like more information about how their business could benefit from an association with one of the most successful youth sections in the area or with a wide ranging community scheme. Please email our commercial executive Keith McGuniess here
for information.