The Nike Academy – a dedicated, pro-level training programme to help highly skilled and committed footballers bring out the best in their game – will now be a full time operation, after Nike and the Barclays Premier League reaffirmed their commitment to the talent development programme.
The Nike Academy offers young players without professional clubs from across the globe a chance to enter the professional game through world-class coaching, alongside games against elite academies and professional reserve teams.
Since the Academy’s inception in 2009, fixtures have been played against the likes of FC Barcelona, Celtic and Paris Saint-Germain and resulted in nine academy graduates winning full time contracts to professional teams.
Huw Jennings, former academy head at Fulham, is the Academy director and under his watch the 22 man squad train six days a week at Loughborough University where they have use of grass pitches, an Olympic size swimming pool, Hipac running track and Powerbase gym.
Access to these elite facilities is complemented by the full range of Nike Football equipment and apparel.
To date six Nike Academy graduates have won full time contracts to professional teams as result of playing in these games and training under the Nike Academy coaching team.
Most recently Ryan James, a former Nike Academy player, has been signed by Oxford United.
Ryan James said: ‘The Nike Academy has given me the chance to prove myself and get signed by a professional team. The coaching staff and set-up really helped me get a contract at Oxford United this season and I wish the current Nike Academy squad the best of luck for the coming months’.
Mike Foster, director of Football at the Premier League, added: ‘The Nike Academy is an excellent example of the growing partnership between the Premier League and Nike. We have worked together now for 11 seasons and over the last few years we have seen the Nike Academy develop into a first class facility for young talent to continue their careers in football’.
‘It will be an exciting season for the squad, and going full-time will only help them improve as athletes to give themselves the best chance of being signed by professional clubs’.
Chris Smalling of Manchester United concluded: ‘Two seasons ago I was in a similar position to the Nike Academy players, playing non-league football and was fortunate enough to get scouted by Fulham under the stewardship of Huw Jennings, the Nike Academy director of Football. The Nike Academy really helps young footballers stay on the path to making it as a pro and I wish the lads all the best for the new season’.