The Linnets and KES - giving youth a chance

King's Lynn's rising stars

King's Lynn's rising stars. Front, from left, Nico Costa, Abbie Howe, Mitch Rasberry, Ethan Wilson and Tyler Knowles. Back, Alistair White, Sarah Hartshorn and Alex Cross - Credit: King's Lynn Town Football Academy

Tommy Widdrington is a believer in the adage, if you’re good enough you’re old enough. 

The King’s Lynn Town boss had five youngsters on his bench for the FA Trophy match at the weekend – to the delight of owner Stephen Cleeve as well as to the King Edward VII Academy (KES). 

Lynn have recently signed five youngsters - Tyler Knowles, Mitchell Rasberry, Albie Howe, Ethan Wilson and Nico Costa - from KES.  

They are currently training daily with first team while still studying at KES and also training with the academy under new coaches Alex Cross and Alex Cook. 

“Just the experience of being around me, around the first team group and involved in the first team on match day at their own ground – people don’t realise that brings youngsters on so much, the confidence they will get from being around us,” said Widdrington. 

“They might hear different language than they hear from the academy manager, but that is part of growing up. I am taking the recommendation of people who know these youngsters better than I do.” 

The business model at Lynn includes the development of young players and, on similar lines to neighbours Norwich City, to sell them on at a profit to sustain the club. 

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“It is a model I have always believed in, always supported and one which is beneficial to all parties – and we are delighted with our association with KES,” said Cleeve. 

Academy boss Cross said: “We are very pleased to be in a position as a National League football club to have five players all receive squad numbers, which is testament to the players, their families and everyone connected with KES.  

“Along with Bradley Ironside, who is also regularly training with the first team, as a club, we have an unrivalled and clear pathway to professional football. These young men are gaining opportunities through their desire and determination to continue developing and we will support them as much as possible on their journey.” 

Joe Taylor is a perfect example of a player who has made the pathway – and is now on the books of Championship side Peterborough United. 

“One of the key goals of our partnership with KLTFC is to offer students new opportunities and the chance to fulfil their potential as footballers,” added head of sixth form Alister White. 

“It is therefore great to see more of our students making the next step in their football careers. This follows on from another of our academy students, Joe Taylor, securing a contract with Peterborough United.  

“The boys have worked extremely hard and have been training regularly with the first team so fully deserve their contracts. Their success shows the clear pathway that exists between the U19 Academy, based at KES, and the KLTFC first team. Academy students receive outstanding coaching on a daily basis and as a result of this and their hard work are clearly making great progress on the pitch. 

“Just as important for me as head of sixth form is the education and enrichment opportunities we provide students. All of these boys have been involved with supporting the coaching and officiating of lower school football and primary school sports festivals. This has helped develop their leadership, teamwork and communication skills which I am sure will help them both in the classroom and on the football pitch. 

“We are also able to offer students a wide range of level 3 qualifications to study alongside their football programme, something I believe is almost unique amongst football academy partnerships. Students do not have to study sport and physical activity and are free to choose from a range of other options. Tyler for example is studying criminology while Ethan and Nico study psychology. Other students on the programme are studying A levels including business studies, English, history and philosophy and ethics. 

“I look forward to further opportunities for our students from our partnership with KLTFC and wish the boys every success.” 

KES Principal Sarah Hartshorn said: “We are so very proud of them, it is great to see the collaboration continue to provide opportunities for our students.  The recognition is truly deserved, they have been working extremely hard, both off and on the pitch.” 

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