Needham Market FC and Suffolk New College celebrate three-year partnership

Kevin Horlock, Freya Louis and Robert Peace

Needham Market celebrating their three year partnership with Suffolk New College which has seen a record number of youngsters go on to play for the first teams. - Credit: Freya Louis

Young footballers in Suffolk are achieving their dreams through the help of a football club and a college.

Needham Market Football Club and Suffolk New College set up a link in 2019 to create opportunities for both males and females in Suffolk to enable them to reach their sporting potential.

A record number of youngsters who have gone through this education have also gone on to play first team football for the club.

Eleven of the players that were in the squad for Needham Market in their fifth round FA Trophy win against Dartford were academy graduates or current students, and six of them came from the specific Needham Market and Suffolk New College link.

Five players have gone onto represent the women's first team.

One of the players, Taylor Clark, 17, from Colchester, has just come back from a trial with Aston Villa and said: "It's a really good programme and I am enjoying it.

Matt Cook, Taylor Clark and Lee Mandley all standing together

Left to Right: Matt Cook (sports lecturer) Taylor Clark (academy player) and Lee Mandley (Head of Sport at Suffolk New College) - Credit: Freya Louis

"I've played against Yeovil and Dartford in the FA Trophy. It was surreal playing in front of that many people. It is a really great set-up.

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The coaches support you in every way and give you the chance to go as far as you can in the game."

Operations director at Needham Market, Robert Peace said: "We have really seen the fruits of our labour in the last 12 to 18 months in terms of academy players breaking through.

Kevin Horlock, Lee Mandley and Robert Peace

Former Premier League and Northern Ireland international Kevin Horlock has managed his Needham Market side to the quarter finals of the FA Trophy. Pictured here alongside Lee Mandley and Robert Peace. - Credit: Freya Louis

"We offer students the chance to work with Kevin Horlock, a former international and Premier League player, and, like with Taylor Clark, players who are released from professional academies (Taylor was released by Ipswich Town at 16) can come to us, put themselves out there, and end up getting a trial at a Premier League outfit."

In terms of the partnership with the college, Mr Peace added: “The long-term hope is to continue to build on our relationship and become the best grassroots academy in the country.”

Head of sport at Suffolk New College, Lee Mandley said: "With this project, we are creating an environment that is conducive to an individual's all-round development, both educationally and in terms of football."