Cowes Sports FC manager and Chelsea FC Foundation IOW Coordinator, Steve Rutter, talks exclusively this week to the IW Observer about his role as Football Development Coordinator on the Island.
As reported in IW Observer (August 30), former professional footballer, Steve Rutter, was recruited by Chelsea FC Foundation in August to develop the charity’s programme on the Isle of Wight . One month into his appointment, we spoke to him about Chelsea FC Foundation’s vision for supporting young people in becoming active and creating a professional pathway into elite sport.
Firstly, we asked him why Chelsea had decided to invest in Island youngsters. The Yachtsmen’s manager, Steve, said: “Chelsea FC Foundation would like to ensure that the charity’s resources could be used to create a positive impact for football participation and sporting activity on the island.
“The Island of Guernsey has produced two England players. We’d love to identify and nurture similar talent on the Isle of Wight through providing development opportunities on the island.
The Chelsea Foundation is a registered charity, which has put £7.4 million into grass roots football and other community activities. It is the biggest football foundation in the UK and one of the biggest in the world.”
We then asked Steve what he had been up to during his first month in the role. He said: “We have been trying to set up After School Clubs on the Island. Identifying and recruiting qualified and talented coaches was the first step, and then setting up a training programme for them to help progress their careers.
“We have spoken with several schools about creating activity opportunities to get kids active and involved in sport. We aim to teach both boys and girls of all ages and abilities.
“The foundation also delivers a Learn to Coach programme in secondary schools for disengaged students that are perhaps struggling to engage with core learning subjects, the programme aims to use the football as a catalyst for engaging them into earning with core subjects like math and English incorporated into a football based learning the LTC programme is delivered over an 8 week period, students involved in the programme must improve their attendance, timekeeping and behaviour at the school in core subjects as well as in the school environment as a whole, after the 8 week period we aim for those involved to become more responsible and engaged in school and society. Those participating on the course will be given Chelsea kit to wear, and may be able to complete a Level One FA Training Course in future.”
Chelsea FC Foundation have set up a football foundation development centre at Cowes Enterprise College, 200 youngsters from under-7s to under-16s have applied to be part of the trial process in October. Those players who are successful at the trials will receive quality training on a weekly basis, Chelsea Foundation training kit, and the opportunity to progress through the player pathway. Saturday mornings have been set aside for the younger age groups under-7s under-10s, with the under-11s to under-16s training on Mondays.
Chelsea Foundation have exciting plans with Cowes Enterprise College to set up a college academy programme for sixth-formers in 2020. The charity is recruiting students to deliver two male teams, with 2 squads of 16 players in each as well as a Girls College Academy Team. The teams would play in the U19 National Youth League and the Hampshire Colleges League.
Steve said: “Those joining the college academy would need to have achieved the right level of academic attainment to be accepted into the sixth form, although we hope to have a small degree of flexibility with exceptional players. At 16, if you are good enough, you are old enough to play senior football. Cowes Sports are in discussions to become the charity’s grassroots associate club for the island, and we hope the club may be a stepping stone for higher things for young players.
“I know from experience that professional football is an extremely tough industry to succeed in, with only a tiny percentage managing to make the grade. However, this is not just about football. Hopefully, the youngsters will be encouraged to make healthy lifestyle choices which will help them in whatever careers they choose to follow.
“There are so many opportunities in sport now and that is something we are looking to provide with Cowes Enterprise College. As well as becoming a footballer, youngsters will also have the chance to become, for example, coaches, sports physiotherapists and psychologists.”
No Island footballer has yet played for England. Our most famous player, Roy Shiner, played 153 games for Sheffield Wednesday, scoring 93 goals. In more recent years, former Cowes High School student, Lee Bradbury, played for the likes of Portsmouth, Manchester City and Bournemouth, making over 500 appearances in his professional career.
Will this welcome initiative from Chelsea football club Foundation result in the next IOW professional footballer being found There’s no reason why not!