As part of The FA’s Get Into Football initiative, the Berks & Bucks FA have been one of a number of County Associations leading the way in helping clubs retain and attract players, while also offering the players themselves an opportunity to play the game in a non-competitive environment.
Berks & Bucks has worked closely with the Mars Under-21 Development League (Slough), which has given clubs in the area a major incentive to give players who are not quite ready for senior football a chance to get some much-needed game-time.
More after the break
One club, Taplow United, have 12 teams of all abilities and ages, while the men’s teams compete in the Reading Senior League. The Mars Under-21s Development League has been another area of focus for The FA Charter Standard Community Club.
“The way the League has been organised has allowed footballers who would normally drift away from the game to play regularly,” says Taplow United chairman Paul Holt. “There are very few youth teams offering U18 football, and those that do, only want the elite players so the rest just fade away from football because of the lack of opportunity.
“By being part of the project we have been able to provide football for those at our club who would not normally get a game in the senior sides. The experience gained by the individuals gives them the confidence to continue playing, and as they develop and mature we hope to integrate them into one of our senior teams at Taplow United.”
Meanwhile, Langley Hornets FC (above) recently entered the five-team midweek League, scoring 13 goals in their four games at the Wexham Secondary School. The League gave their players between the ages of 16 and 21 the chance to get back into football, or in some instances carry on playing where their previous teams had folded.
“We started with 14 players but could easily double that figure by the time the new season starts,” explains Sean Henwood, the Hornets Manager. “This gives a clear indication that there is a vast number of young players wanting to play football within this age bracket.
“Our players that participated found it a very useful insight as it gave them all a taste of what is the next step from youth team football.
“They now have the opportunity to develop their confidence and experience over several years to help them make the transition from youth to senior football.”
For more information about the Mars Development League in Slough, visit www.Berks-BucksFA.com