Rugby Town FC have announced the formation of a new Academy of Football which will be based at their Butlin Road ground.
The scheme for 16-19 year olds will begin in August 2018 and it will be run in partnership with education provider the Morthyng Group.
The course will be headed up by the ex-Nuneaton Town Academy boss and one-time Valley player Liam O’Neill.
The full-time Football/Education BTEC Scholarship programme is aimed at those who wish to continue their studies whilst training and playing for Rugby Town on a daily basis.
Rugby Town FC Director Neil Melvin said: “We are delighted to be able to offer this academy scheme.
“We are hoping that this new initiative will help to provide a clear pathway for young footballers from Rugby and the surrounding area into first team football at Butlin Road.”
O’Neill will lead the programme as the club’s full-time football education Head Coach, spearheading the exciting project in conjunction with Morthyng Group Ltd and the Academy’s patron Richard Overson.
The 44 year-old makes the switch to the Butlin Road-based scheme after two highly successful years in his full-time role at Nuneaton, which followed a distinguished playing, coaching and management career in senior football.
His time at the National League’s club academy saw his Under 19’s team last season capture the double of winning the Premier League VAR trophy at St George’s Park and then being crowned National League (Div H) U19 league Champions, as well as reaching the National League Cup Quarter finals.
He said: “I have had a fantastic two years as Academy Manager at Nuneaton and we have had great success both on and off the pitch.
“A dozen or so lads were given debuts in the first team in the last year and a couple have got moves into the Football League and that is something I’m very proud of.
“It is my job to develop, coach and mentor these young scholars into not just becoming better footballers but guiding them towards a better education and becoming finer young men in the process.
“Our two to three year football education programme offers them a real chance to continue higher education along with working daily as a full time footballer.”
O’Neill’s playing career included spells at Mansfield, Blackburn, Cheltenham, Banbury Utd, Evesham Utd, Bedworth & Rugby, before he moved into coaching aged 33 when he managed Bedworth United for three years - guiding them to their best ever FA Cup run losing to 0-2 York City in the 4th Qualifying Round in 2009.
He then spent over four years as assistant manager at Leamington culminating in The Brakes winning the Southern League Premier Division Championship and promotion to the National League North, with further spells in an assistant role at Corby Town and Stratford Town.
Looking forward to the new challenge, the new Town Academy Manager concluded: “I’m a Rugby lad and I watched the Valley week in week out as a kid with my dad.
“I made my first team debut as a 15-year-old under Jimmy Knox and played against Manchester United in his testimonial at Butlin Road too, so people locally know how special the club is to me.
“I’m really looking to getting started and fingers crossed this can be the start of a bright future in terms of giving young footballers a continued educational path and developing future first team players for the club in tandem.”
# A trial date for the new Academy will be held at Butlin Road this Saturday (June 2) at 2pm.
The trial is open to any Year 11 or Year 12 (aged 16-18 year old) students who wish to showcase their footballing ability and gain a place in next season’s scholarship intake.
For further details or to book your place at the trial, email Liam at [email protected]