Gardner’s new role with Grainger’s coaching academy
DANNY Grainger reflected on further growth and success for his Cumbria Football Academy — and spoke of a real team effort from everyone involved.
Set up in 2015 to give youngsters a shot at becoming professionals, Carlisle United skipper Grainger’s academy has almost 100 budding players from across the county on its books.
Grainger and his hard-working band of coaches have added under-10s, 11s and 12s to their ranks - and celebrated seeing a number of their teens sign deals with Carlisle United, Morecambe and Queen of the South.
Another new coach, Penrith AFC player Shaun Gardner, has come on board, while commercial cleaners Spindles of Penrith have joined the growing list of sponsors which are backing the flourishing football venture.
“Shaun can pass on advice of what needs to be going into the senior game in the local leagues as well which is great, and the lads have really taken to him in the older age groups,” said Grainger. “He has good enthusiasm which is a minimum requirement for what we’re doing at the academy.”
He added that spon-sorship,of kits and clothing was a “massive” boost. “I can’t thank the sponsors enough to be honest. They have all been great for us; it never seems to be a fight to find local companies that want to help,” he said.
“It makes the lads feel a part of something special. They have got their own training kit, they have their own hoodies, they travel to the games in their T-shirts and their hoodies, warming up in them, take them off, putting their match strips on. They just feel a bit special.”
In addition, academy teams are regularly given the chance to pit their skills in matches against other talented players attached to professional clubs.
“Middlesbrough have been in touch wanting games, Preston want games. It is fantastic for the lads and it shows we are doing it the right way because teams are phoning us and wanting games now as well — we are not having to chase as many games,” said Lazonby-based Grainger.
“We played Queen of the South the other week. We got beat 3-2, and the lad who scored the winner, Ben Vickers, came from our Academy. That’s great for us to see.”
Meanwhile Sedbergh-based Gardner, who recently set up his own soccer school, No. 7 Coaching, said he was “really pleased” to join the academy.
“I have also set up my own coaching thing. I’m doing my UEFA B (coaching badge) at the moment, and saw Danny at Frenchfield. He just messaged me the night after, asking if I would like to come on board with him, and I was made up to be honest.
“I am mostly working with the older ones on a Monday night, normally 14s, 15s, 16s, just because I have the link with still playing, and with Penrith.
“It is about getting the older lads into good habits and involved, and seeing what it takes to be in a dressing room and getting ready for adult football as well,” he said.
“They are spot on, willing to learn and wanting to do better.”
Martin Strand, company director of new academy sponsor, Penrith laundry Spindles, said his 15-year-old son Kyle, a goalkeeper, is attached to the under-16s.
“I thought I’d just get involved and try to promote the younger lads. We have sponsored the shirts, the kits,” he said. “I think the Academy are doing a great job, right through the ages.
“Kyle’s aim is just go as high as he can, just to get spotted by somebody with a bit of luck. That would be great.”