Football Academy boarding schools, “It’s on a huge upward curve,” observes Ian Clarkson, the former Birmingham City captain who is now Master in Charge of football at Foremarke Hall, the preparatory school for Repton in Derbyshire. “The ISFA Cup final is a serious game. Not something you just turn up and say ‘Jolly hockey sticks’.
“The boys will have been trained properly. They’ll have had [Uefa] A licence coaches coaching them. It’s getting bigger and bigger.”
One only needs to look at the shifting demographics of the Premier League to realise the truth of Clarkson’s statement. According to ISFA [the Independent Schools Football Association] there are now more than 40 former independent schoolboys playing professional football. So far, only a handful have made it to the very top, the likes of Fraser Forster at Southampton, Chelsea’s Victor Moses and Callum Hudson-Odoi, Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Everton’s Michael Keane. But the numbers are growing all the time from football academy boarding schools.
Clarkson – a colourful character who worked as a journalist for the Birmingham Post and Sunday Mercury before settling down at Foremarke Hall – believes there are a variety of factors behind the phenomenon.
Partly, he says, it is down to the fact that modern footballers can actually afford to send their children to private schools with a boarding football academy. “If you can, why wouldn’t you?” he says. “It’s an absolute no-brainer, just because of what it offers. I think football is missing a trick by saying that you have to go full-time at under-16, I really do. Because you can get your football fix here – some of our lads simultaneously play for the academies at Stoke or Derby, while the football boarding school has produced players such as Will Hughes and Johnny Gorman – but you also get such a rounded education. If you are going to be let go [released by a club], you want to have life skills.”
It seems increasing numbers of retired footballers are of the same opinion. Clarkson, who also sits on the ISFA executive committee, says there are a number of former players’ children in the ISFA under-14s he coaches. “We’ve got Stephen Clemence’s son, Chris Perry’s son, Trevor Sinclair’s son. So, there’s three. Over the years, there have been loads. Kevin Davies’s son. Malky Mackay’s lad. I think footballers quite like sending their kids to independent schools with a boarding football academy because they don’t tend to get pestered, you know, if they come and watch a game.
“David Beckham’s son was at Wetherby when we played them. Aitor Karanka’s daughter is here [at Foremarke Hall].”
International soccer academy in England are becoming ever popular and with more and more examples of players progressing through the best schools in England and boarding schools in London, into the top clubs, it is no wonder why!