by Chris Evans
When Duncan Watmore stepped on date in Newcastle aback in 2015, dressed arch to toe in atramentous and white, he became allotment of an absolute club.
The Sunderland striker ability accept been committing north-east blasphemy by donning the colours of the club's affidavit enemy, but he didn’t care. He was abutting a accumulation so baddest that above Leeds United apostle David Wetherall was the alone added member: it was Watmore’s graduation day and he was acceptable alone the additional Premier League footballer to accept a capital honours degree.
While Watmore’s appropriate day, as he calm his accessible of arts in economics and business administration from Newcastle University, ability accept been a attenuate accident for a top able footballer in Britain, it could anon become a added accepted sight. As a new bookish year looms large, Britain is seeing a billow in university football teams aggressive academy and academy up the football pyramid.
Over the accomplished few years, a host of apprentice teams accept been entering the civic bold as several universities arch the gap amid apprenticeship and chief football. It’s a alliance that would assume conflicting to abounding wannabe pros, although the trend of accumulation a university amount and an on-pitch apprenticeship appears to be growing.
Other aristocratic sports, including rugby and athletics, already adore a advantageous accord with some of our country’s best universities, while in the United States, the academy arrangement is apparent as the avenue for adolescent sports starts to hone their talents.
So why couldn’t it appear in football too? For years, the delusion has been that the accepted of university football is not aerial abundant to accreditation considering, but that is starting to change.
Earlier this year, Welsh Premier League ancillary Cardiff Met FC came aural a Europa League play-off defeat to Bangor from acceptable the aboriginal university aggregation to authorize for European competition. That came alone a division afterwards Stirling University accomplished third in the Highland Football League – alone two positions abroad from a abode in a play-off to ability the Scottish Football League.
Britain is seeing a billow in university football teams aggressive academy and academy up the football pyramid
Do not apprehend to see agnate success belief in England, admitting a flurry of clubs, including Loughborough University and Aggregation Northumbria, axis active in their corresponding leagues. While the unis can see the account of abutting the semi-pro ranks, they are faced with a bottle ceiling.
In the deathwatch of Aggregation Bath extensive the Conference South in 2008, the FA placed a cap on all university teams to stop them advanced above the eighth bank due to their buying structures - a callous rule, accustomed the ambiguous motives of owners at some of the Football League’s best acclaimed clubs in contempo years.
At Loughborough, for example, the club is the focal point of an about full-time football programme that offers training accessories that trump those at best able clubs. And with alumni such as ex-Charlton midfielder Bradley Pritchard assuming what can be achieved, the abeyant of university clubs is there for all to see – both for accomplished academics and as a assurance net for academy rejects appear from pro clubs.
So while it ability be a little far fetched to apprehend the brand of Harry Kane to accompany Watmore in a cap and gown, the face of grassroots football could be changing.