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ACADEMY: Something we were really keen to do

1 June 2016

Mark Birch with an update on the academy

Academy Foundation Phase Lead Coach Mark Birch spoke to us about the positive experience gained by the Academy age groups who all got to train on the Brunton Park pitch last week.

"It's something we were really keen to do," he told us. "The lads all come to the games so we wanted to give them the experience of playing on the first team pitch, which is something a bit special for them.

"It really makes them feel part of the club. They were excited about it from the moment they were told about it and I think some of them even bought new boots and things like that. They were all really looking forward to it."

"The Academy is going from strength-to-strength at the moment and we've got a lot of kids at different Development Centres across the county," he explained. "We've got one in Barrow and Ulverston and one out in Whitehaven, so they don't get to see each other on a regular basis.

"We use the Brunton Park training session as a bit of a get together for the coaches and the players as a reward for the hard work they've done throughout the season."
 
"EPPP is in full-flow now and it's given us all something to work to," he continued. "It allows us to take kids in from a younger age. We've got a proper development programme which we know is going to work because it's been tested by other clubs in other countries.

"It's given us more organisation and each player is now reviewed. They all know what they've got to work on and what their strengths are. Even things like the physical side of the game are important at a young age.

"I think it's really helped to develop the kids and bring them on in lots of different areas. The game needed that structure throughout the country to make sure that all kids are learning the same kind of things. I think it's had a positive impact on football at academy level."
 
"I really enjoy coaching the younger age groups," he said. "It's their first insight into a professional football club at the start of what will hopefully be a long career. To be that person involved with that, along with the other good coaches we have at the club is quite satisfying."

Having played and captained United as a professional between 2000 and 2003, with over 125 appearances in a blue shirt to his name in a blue shirt, he knows as well as anyone what it means to walk down the tunnel and out onto the playing surface.

"There are always memories as you walk down the tunnel," he confirmed. "The Arsenal game is always one that sticks in the memory and I think it always will. 

"Even things like being sent off and having to walk down the tunnel as you thought about what you'd just done wrong ... they stay with you as well. 

"It's a great stadium and I've got a lot of good memories."

United PlayerHD subscribers can see an interview with Mark Birch now. Click HERE to go to the PlayerHD platform. Follow the same link for more information on United PlayerHD, and to subscribe.

Click HERE to see a clip from this interview on our YouTube channel. Follow the same link for more FREE content right from the heart of the club.

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