FOOTBALL: Saturday signals the dawn of a new era for Suffolk’s female footballers.

The county FA will begin the search for future female football stars when their brand-new Girls’ Player Development Centre (PDC) opens its doors at Whitton Sports Centre this weekend.

A host of young hopefuls will go on trial hoping to secure a place at the coveted new facility, which aims to bridge the gap between grass-roots and Centre of Excellence football.

The new facility replaces the Ipswich Town Centre of Excellence – one of 17 axed when the Football Association withdrew its licence in June, despite having helped more than 500 girls in the last decade.

“At grass-roots level, a lot of clubs are not sure how to coach their players and there needs to be a bigger emphasis on the technical aspect of the game,” said newly-appointed PDC manager, Matt Johnstone.

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“If you don’t get the fundamentals right then you are going to struggle to develop a good game understanding and at our level, which is just above grass-roots, we are very focused on individual technique and developing that.

“We aim to bridge the gap between the bottom rung of the ladder and top of it and I think without the PDC, it would be a struggle to develop the technical side of players’ games.

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“I don’t think there would be many girls making that step on the pathway from grass-roots to Centre of Excellence football.”

The centre will offer 20 extra training sessions for selected girls in the under-11, 13 and 15 categories.

Parents, teachers, coaches and players have until midday tomorrow to fill in a nomination form to attend the trials.

Suffolk FA will also work in partnership with Suffolk County Schools FA to signpost players from the PDC trials to County Schools U14 and U16 trials.

Johnstone, the 23-year-old former manager of Chesham United Ladies, added: “There are some PDCs that just fill the gap and do not do what they should. We want to be professional and develop a long-term vision.

“It is an exciting project and it will be interesting to see what standard our young players are at.”

n Full story – page 35

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