By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH’S college academy team are celebrating after they sealed a league and cup double recently, winning the Hampshire Colleges League Division Two title and adding the Steve Perkins cup with a three-two victory over Peter Symonds last week at Privett Park.
After last season’s games were cancelled due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, the team led by Boro’ first team players Joe Lea and Pat Suraci have seen an 100% winning ratio this campaign; with goals from Christian Bennett, Tom Rolls and Will Ayres sealing the final win in a thrilling encounter.
And success in their first campaign is evidence that the young side can provide talent for the club’s first team, according to co-manager Joe Lea. The 23-year-old, who has stopped playing to concentrate on coaching, said: “The season has gone really well, and not just because we’ve won two trophies but because of the attitude the boys have shown. There is a strong group who want to play for the first team at Gosport Borough and they believe they have a chance, and rightly so with the programme that we have set up. If they are good enough, and Shaun Gale the manager is open to it & very involved, they will get their chance.”
The team is made up of many 16 to 19-year-olds on the two-year St Vincent Elite Football Academy programme, run in conjunction with Borough’s centre of excellence. Students are committed to studying maths and English alongside at least 12 hours of football coaching a week from the two former Southampton academy players as well as tactical analysis and fitness.
And this seemed to provide a boost for Lea, who continued: “The fact we get to coach the boys four days a week means we really get to spend a lot of time with them and we get to put our ideas across to them and you can see that come out in the games. The college has been superb for the boys in providing the education side of things, they are very understanding that the boys want to play football and very supportive of what they do. To have all the boys based in one place and to be able to use the pitches, the gym area and the sports hall has been hugely beneficial.”
“The course gives the youngsters a grounding in how professional and semi-professional clubs operate and provides a platform to go on to be players or coaches. Stephen Culley, our captain last year was really big on coaching and he is now studying it at Chichester University,” He has joined our centre of excellence and is helping coach the under nines to under 14s with a view to ending up with the under 18s and 23s.”
There was also time to reflect on the cup final held in late March as Lea said: “It was an entertaining game for the neutral but less so for the coaching staff. We were 2-0 up through Christian Bennett and Tom Rolls but the boys got a little bit complacent and they pulled it back to 2-2,”
“To their credit they showed good character and scored the winner through Will Ayres with just a few minutes left and penalties looming. A late winner like that means there are always some great scenes at the end.”
Despite winning multiple silverware after a brilliant campaign overall; Lea finished by saying that the key achievement this year has been the success of the course, saying: “Winning isn’t everything at this age, it’s more about the individuals developing. The idea is that as many of these boys as possible end up in the Gosport Borough first team.” Obviously not all of them will make it but all of them have shown a great attitude, even those who haven’t had much playing time, so it doesn’t get much better than that for us. The outlook for next season is positive after this term’s success.”
“We’ll be facing harder league opposition in division one but the ambition is to challenge there, go as far as we can in the cup again and keep developing the programme as much as we can, The signs are that we will have quite a few new players coming into the programme in September which is great. More quality players coming in will push the others and that’s how we keep improving and developing, which is what it is about.”
Readers can find out more about the course by visiting the college website, www.stvincent.ac.uk or contacting them via email; with the website link for potential participants to apply for next year here.
PICTURED: Players celebrate late victory in cup match at Privett Park to complete the league-cup double.