Norfolk Pride. Putting something back is a passion for Declan Rudd
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Declan Rudd grasped his chance to make it as a professional. Now with friend Loui Blake he wants to help the next generation, Paddy Davitt spoke to both.
Declan Rudd knows better than most what it takes to develop young footballers.
The 27-year-old joined Norwich City's academy set-up at the age of eight and progressed all the way through to the Premier League.
But the Diss-bred keeper was one of the lucky ones.
Rudd has seen plenty of his mates fall by the wayside; which is part of the reason he is helping to launch 'Future Football Elite' - a partnership with friend, business partner and Uefa-qualified coach Loui Blake.
'We aren't going to make everyone into Cristiano Ronaldo but we can let children know there is something to bridge the gap between fun football and the professional side of the game,' said Rudd, who ended a near 20-year association with his boyhood club last summer when he joined Championship promotion hopefuls Preston.
'If you are not quite good enough, and I have seen players come and go who I thought who were among the best at a certain age group but for whatever reason they don't make it.
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'Even from when I was part of the academy, from the age of eight, they were getting released and being told they weren't big enough or strong enough or quite technically good enough.
'The message was they had to go away and work at it and the club would keep an eye on you.
'If we can offer something that isn't catered for at the moment, which allows them to get back into the academy or eventually go on and get a contract, then we have done our jobs.
'We are definitely not trying to compete with the academy.'
Blake will be the figurehead for the coaching courses, aimed at boys and girls from the age of three upwards, with free taster sessions available next month at Goals, on Hall Road in Norwich.
'We see this as making academy-level coaching accessible to young players in Norfolk who are not part of the academy,' he said.
'Dec is the fortunate one who had that opportunity and he wants to extend that to a wider pool of players. Dec himself has designed the keeper programme.
'I have been coaching full-time since I was 16 and that was around the time myself and Dec started knocking about together.
'Dec would turn up every now and then to help out and it was obviously good for the children to see someone like him, because he is an inspiration and a role model. 'I moved to London then and it stopped and ever since that point we have talked about trying to get it going again.
'Dec and I have funded it ourselves.
'We are not saying we are here to compete with the football club's academy or the Community Sports Foundation. We are saying we feel there is a gap here and we want to help. We want to work with local clubs and coaches and even the academy to help develop players.'
Rudd aims to be hands on when his Preston commitments allow for the first foray into what could become a potential second career in football, when he eventually hangs up the gloves.
'This will hopefully be something I can devote more time to when my playing career is over,' he said.
'Coaching and allowing children to reach their potential is one of my passions. I will work towards my badges and come down when I can to do the odd session at the camps.
'We need to concentrate on getting it up and running first, which is why the focus is on Norwich.
'But for someone like me, coming from Diss, I know there will be parents who might want us to branch out in the longer term.
'As a child if it wasn't for my Dad taking a few hours off work after school to take me up there I wouldn't have been able to get to Norwich to train.
'I was lucky enough that from the age of eight I was in the Norwich academy.
'But one of the main things you miss out on by being involved in that environment is just playing with your mates and having fun.
'Ideally we want to create something for people from Norwich and the surrounding areas who are good players and can learn a lot from our technical coaches.
'It won't be about kicking a ball about in a small-sided game.
'Our main aim is to improve every single player, and they can still play with their mates in a local team.
'We want to be that bridge.'
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