Jack Collison is hoping to discover a footballing gem when he opens his own Academy in Shefford in September.
The Jack Collison Academy will be a government funded two-year full-time excellence and education programme run by the former West Ham and Peterborough United player, with professional coaching four days a week and a nationally recognised qualifications in sport, just some of the things on offer.
Collison, 27, who himself came through at Shefford Saints as a youngster, already runs a popular series of Soccer Schools, but felt there was even more he could do in the area he grew up in.
Speaking to the Chronicle, he said: “We started the Soccer Schools about 18 months ago, I really enjoyed doing that but we thought there was a gap in the market and that we could bring something of that quality to Shefford, where I grew up.
“There are some great players out there, it’s just giving them that opportunity to get into a good system, good education, good quality football training and providing that for them.
“We’re not saying everyone is going to go on and be the next Lionel Messi, but out of the squad, you might find one or two footballers, we might be able to make five or six sports scientists, might be able to make a few coaches.
“So it’s just something we’ll look to do, something we’re really passionate about.
“We’d love to find a little gem in there and help them get into the professional game, that’s a real passion of ours, find one or two and then hopefully the rest well help out massively.
“Sometimes it might just be being given that opportunity as look at the likes of Jamie Vardy coming through so late.”
Collison was recently appointed Peterborough U18s boss but wants to be as hands on as possible at the Academy and believes his new role at London Road could pay off for the squad of 20-24 he has in place too.
He continued: “I’m going to be the U18 manager at Peterborough United next year, so it would be amazing if I can find one or two and get them down there.
“I’m going to be as heavily involved as I possibly can. I’m going to take more of a mentor route and try to help the kids with that next step. Whether they want to get out to America, whether they’re really serious about the football, I’m going to try and give them every opportunity I can to help them.
“Whether it’s dropping in for individual meetings, or taking the training, whatever way I can I’m going to look to be involved as heavily as I can as it’s something I’m really passionate about.”
Having also played 15 times for Wales and only retiring from the game through injury earlier this year, Collison has a bursting contacts book to get some top professionals over to Shefford and help out.
However, it won’t just be purely footballers who will pass on their knowledge and expertise as he said: “That’s where we been a little bit of different, we’ve had an Olympic gold medalist in rower Mark Hunter with the soccer school, we’ve had some Premier League players, a lot of the MK Dons have come down too.
“It might just take something a little bit different, like an Olympic rower to spark a fire in someone to really go and chase down a dream and that’s the angle we’re going to come in.”
Education will play big role for the development of the youngsters too as the 27-year-old confirmed: “It’s not just about going and playing football every day, we believe heavily in the education side and if the kids aren’t up to date with the education, they don’t play football, it goes hand in hand.
“They’ll get a good qualification, a diploma in sport, these are things that can help them along the line whether they do want to go down a sports science route.”
With the development that has gone on in Shefford too, then Collison felt there was no better place to launch the Academy than where he started off, adding: “It’s based at the Shefford Town Memorial Association, which has got pitches, and classroom facilities inside, a clubhouse and training facilities, it’s all going to be based in the same area.
“I loved my time at Shefford, it’s how I got my career grounded, so it’s great to go back and seeing the club doing so well.
“I think they’ve got 26/28 teams now and a lovely facility, but they’ve always been willing to back us and help us along our way which is fantastic.”
The first trial date for the Jack Collison Academy will be next Tuesday (May 31) at 5pm at Digswell Park Shefford.
For more information, or to book your place, ring 0345 644 5747 or visit http://wearescl.co.uk/jack-collison-academy.