Today club press secretary Adam Dennehey sat down and had the chance to speak to Andy Tickner from Barking Abbey who is proud of the partnership that the club have secured. As part of the partnership Andy will become the club's Director of Youth Academy.
Andy told us more about the school and his hopes that the players who will form part of the club's Academy will go onto push for first team honours this season. It was a good chat and as you're see Andy has more than a few links within the football club itself already.
Q: So Andy, how long have you been involved with Barking & Abbey?
A: I have been involved with the school for 26 years as i started there as a teacher back in 1984 and have just finished my 26th year in teaching. Originally beforehand i played at a decent level of football and was a former player at Ford United incidentally in my playing career for 7 years. I played a decent level of sport at college and then university.
Q: So you used to play for the club, what were your memories of being involved with the club?
A: I have good memories of the club and I enjoyed my time there. At the time when i was involved with the club we played at Rush Green Sports ground and we were doing well in the Essex Senior League. The facilities at that time were exceptional and we were fairly successful despite not having alot of money back in those days.
I really enjoyed my time at the club and just as i was ending my time with Ford, Jimmy Chapman who has been your chairman and is still involved with the club today was starting out as a goalie. I do remember my time at the club and at the age of 28/29 i left the team to play in the Istminian League.
Q: What is the best part of being involved with Barking & Abbey and helping young footballers?
A: Well I’m not involved with professional teams. I have been involved with running teams in Essex, particularly those in Barking and Dagenham. Fumingly enough Kris Taylor who of course is joint manager of Redbridge, was in one of my youth teams in the 1990s. He played for me in U14 and U15 level before moving onto the Charlton Athletic set up and i think he was in the Charlton set up at the same level as Jermain Defoe and Paul Koncheskey.
Q: Who are the previous clubs that Barking & Abbey have had partnerships with?
A: We have had partnerships with several clubs over the years. We were involved with Waltham Forest for 3 years and have been involved with Thurrock for 2 years as well as having a partnership with Dagenham & Redbridge. Our partnership with the Daggers only lasted one year as the deal was not beneficial towards us and our players as Dagenham had partnerships with 2 or 3 schools at the same time so we pulled out for the sake of our players future.
Q: Why then did you decide to go into a partnership with Redbridge?
A: Well we’ve put in a financial commitment to be involved with your club and after speaking to Dan Holloway who wants to move your club forward and properly invest in a youth programme, we thought it’d be best for both of us to link up.
Our relationship with Thurrock was good, but as they’re a Blue Square South club it’s harder for our players to break into the team. We feel that the players will stand a better chance of breaking into the Redbridge team. As the club is more local to us we feel that the players will not just be making up the numbers which is a good thing and that they can have a real chance of breaking into the first team.
Q: As well as giving players opportunities to improve as footballers, the school also offers them coaching courses as well. Is this done for something for the players to fall back on?
A: We offer the chance for players to learn the UEFA Level 1 award for Coaching, which also applies to the FA. We also offer the chance for players to learn referring awards which some players took on last season. We do this so players’ as you’ve said have something to fall back on and gives them more opportunities to be involved with football, not just as footballers.
Q: So in the years that the football school has been running, who have been the school’s most recent success stories that have gone on to play at a higher level of football?
A: Well the footballing school has been running for 6 years now. Off the top of my head I can think of 4 players that have established themselves in the football league. Alife Potter is a name that should stand out for fans of non league football. Alife famously scored for Havant & Waterlooville in the 2008 FA Cup at Anfield and is now at Oxford United where he is due to play in the football league after featuring for the side in their promotion from the conference last season.
Other players that spring to mind are Chris Bush who is at Brentford in their youth team, Michael Hector who recently signed his first pro-contract at Reading and Farai Hallam who is at Stevenage who are playing in League 2 next season. Farai went to school at Beale so we deal with alot of local players. The more players can break into professional clubs the better it is for us and the more our reputation goes up so we can improve resources and time for our future students.
Q: That leads me nicely onto my next question which was does Barking Abbey deal with local talent or do you often get people from up and down the country?
A: We deal mainly with local talent. On average we have around 20-22 places available each year for young players so there is alot of competition involved. We can sometimes have 150 players applying to join the school. With that amount of youngsters wanting to join we have to work out trials to get the number down to that 20-22 places.
It is extremely difficult as the players that we take on are often well skilled. When selecting people onto the programme we select them by position so we can build a team up well.
As I said we mainly deal with local talent, but we do get people in from areas like Southend and Edmonton. That’s good for us as it means that word has got round of the school and it helps bring money into the school as clubs from around London find out about us.
Also in the last couple of years we have attracted interest from American colleges who saw some of our youngsters on our annual American tour. Several of those players have since been signed up some of the top sporting colleges in the states who have been given scholarships. Due to this we have contacts in the States so we have a profile abroad as well.
Q: What separates Barking Abbey from other schools across the South of England?
A: Well for starters one of the most important parts about the school is that we prioritise alot of attention for the players on their studies. We tell them that if their studies are falling behind then they suffer as footballers.
Alot of colleges limit the students to hardly any time for their studying, at Barking Abbey students have 25 periods in a week. 16 of those periods are for studying and we offer our students a wide range of A levels and BTEC courses for them to get qualifications from.
One of the most important things that we teach the players is that time spent on training will benefit them when it comes to matches.
We care about the progress of the players and we look at their performances on the pitch in terms of how they play not in what the match results are.
Q: Do you have any girls studying at the school who are looking for a career in women’s football?
A: We have about 15-16 girls learning at the school. Women’s football is growing in popularity but there isn’t at the moment a lot of opportunities for them in the game. We offer them the same training and resources as the boys and Tracey Duxbury who is involved with West Ham Ladies comes down and coaches the girls.
It’s great for them to learn from Tracey who has alot of experience for these girls to learn from. Women’s football will be getting alot of attention next year when the Women’s Super League starts next year and we hope that our girls will one day get a chance to play in that.
Q: What do you think about the ongoing argument that there’s no home-grown talent in football that will make the England team stronger?
A: I think that the talent is there as there alot of young players in non league football and in our youth academy’s. The problem is that the top clubs in this country would rather risk investing in foreign talent than home grown players who are unproven. It’s good that the Premier League are going to insist on having a certain amount of home-grown players but the clubs will work their way round it like Manchester United can on Federico Macheda for example. We have to make sure that opportunities are there for young home grown players or they will never get the chance that they deserve.
Q: Lastly what does Barking Abbey want to get out of the partnership with Redbridge?
A: We care about the players that we work with and we want our players to break into the first team at Redbridge and advance their careers with the club, which is something that everybody will want. Our side will play in the Football Conference Youth Alliance which is an U19 league on Wednesday afternoons at the Oakside and they will then have the chance to play in the Capital League.
From speaking to Dan Holloway and the management team we know that our players will be given the opportunity to play in the Capital League and then get chances to play in the youth team. Physically this will be a challenge for the players as they will be playing against players 10-15 years older than them but this will challenge them and improve them as footballers.
We set ourselves high standards at Barking Abbey and regularly have players in squads for the Essex Colleges XI, Essex Schools U18’s and the Essex County Youth side. Several players down the years have been selected for the England U18 side and currently we have three players in the England U18 setup who meet up in Repton, Derbyshire.
We hope that the club can give a chance to the players and we hope that both parties make the most out of this partnership which hopefully can grow into a long-term one.