Lowestoft Town aiming to create a ‘big family’
Lowestoft Town have announced the first major changes to the club's infrastructure under new director of football Craig Fleming.
The Blues have set the ball rolling on developing a new youth system and a Centre of Excellence while new ground will be broken by the formation of a women's team at Crown Meadow.
Town have made a remarkable rise up the footballing ladder, coming within a whisker of promotion to the Conference South this year, just two seasons after saying goodbye to Eastern Counties League football.
But Fleming believes the rapid rise in the first team's fortunes has left parts of the club lagging behind and has acted quickly to ensure new initiatives cover the gaps.
The clearest is the creation of a new youth set-up, in conjunction with Lowestoft College, which Fleming hopes, in the long-term, will ensure the club does not miss out on the best of the region's young footballers.
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'At the moment, the first team has just raced away, from the Ridgeons to the Rymans and we could and should have been in the Conference South,' said Fleming.
'We are now trying to get the rest of the club to come with us. We will have a youth set-up that will be the best around bar none at this level and we will have the women's set-up and we will keep on building. At the moment it is like a pyramid where we are top heavy – now we need to start building the foundations of the club.
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'The first team have come on leaps and bounds and obviously having moved up the league the focus has all been on the first team, to the detriment of the youth set-up and we made a real vow to get the youth set-up up and running and make it the best in the region.'
Lowestoft will continue to field teams at 18 and 16-year-old levels, but are hoping that as the set-up grows they will be able to attract, younger footballers into the fold.
'Eventually we will go as young as probably eight and 10 years old and probably go all the way through to 18s,' said Fleming. 'We will have a goalkeeping coach, a sports scientists to work with them - everything will mirror what the first team does. What we are looking at is the long term and the club progressing.
'We have a long-term plan which involves a lot of other things, but to maintain the level we are at now and above the club really does need to start producing its own players.
'It won't be done overnight. We are looking at a set-up where if you are not taken on by the Norwich City academy or the Ipswich academy and you don't know where to go, well ideally the next port of call is Lowestoft Town.
'We shouldn't be missing out on good local talent. They are out there – we just have to bring them in at a young age and bring them on to play for us, not someone else. There are players who are outside the area playing for good teams – they could have been playing for us.
'What we are planning is fundamental to the club's long-term success. It is huge for us. We will get there eventually and it will be a slow burner, but one thing is a given – we must produce our own talent.
'At non-league you often see the scenario where a club spends a lot of money and get a load of mercenaries in, then the money runs dry, the club goes belly up and all the players disappear again. If we can build a system where we are bringing through good players on a regular basis it has got to be good for the future of Lowestoft Town.
'Any young players who want to come in are more than welcome. The training and the support will be on first-team lines, which mirrors every pro club in the country, with quality, highly-trained people, and that is all the ay through the club.'
The launch of the women's team is a new venture and one pioneered by chairman Gary Keyzor.
'The chairman quite rightly wants to build us into a big, family club,' said Fleming. 'If you think about it, what we have is quite small – the first team and not much else. The chairman wants lots of teams all the way through, and with women's football one of the largest growing sports in the country it is an obvious move for us.'
• Women's football trials will be held next Tuesday, between 7pm and 9pm, at Denes High School.