Tuesday 24 September 2013
The month of August is often replete in England with images of happy teenagers jumping for joy at receiving their results to GCSEs, the exams that Year 11s take. But for some 15 or 16-year-olds there is little to celebrate, with few if any qualifications attained.
For such teenagers in Liverpool who are also passionate about football, the lack of qualifications is not a barrier to achieving progress thanks to work done by LFC Foundation Football College.
"The college got my career back on track when I thought it was over"
The college, which is attached to Liverpool Football Club's charitable arm and is based at the University of Liverpool Wyncote Sports Ground, provides a unique learning experience for 16-19-year-olds at Level 1, 2 and 3. While some students at the Football College are aiming for University places and Scholarships in USA, those who arrive with no GCSEs are given as much opportunity to progress.
Thanks to the college many students have gained qualifications and improved their lives. Of last year's intake of 70 students, under the guidance of college director David Rowe and David MacDiarmid, those taking Level 1 and 2 BTECs and NVQs celebrated a 100% pass rate. For the present academic year the intake has climbed to 120 boys and girls.
Such students have come from within the club and from outside. Paul Mullin was demotivated after being released from Liverpool's Academy but after enrolling at the college he gained maths, English and BTEC Sport qualifications and rediscovered his love of football.
Playing for the college team, Mullin helped them win the British Colleges League and Cup double, which put him on the radar of scouts from a number of clubs. His hat-trick in the final helped to win him a three-year professional contract with Huddersfield Town.
"The LFC Foundation College gave me a chance to gain qualifications and get my career back on track when I thought it was over," Mullin says. "I don't know what I would be doing now if I never got the opportunity."
Lionel 'Leo' Agbojan is another example of a player who was helped by the college. After coming over from France and playing in the academy alongside players such as Raheem Sterling, injuries forced Agbojan to leave the academy but thanks to the college he has advanced himself and now plays semi-professionally for AFC Liverpool while coaching at the academy.
"The LFC Foundation College has supported me to grow as a person so much," he says. "After being released by Liverpool Academy I was not sure what to do but the college gave me the perfect opportunity to remain involved in football and pursue my dreams. I am delighted for Raheem to see him in the first team now and England now but not all of us are that fortunate to make it through. So studying at the college and coaching at the LFC Academy are the next best thing for me."
It is not just teenagers who have been on the books of Liverpool whom the college helps.
Jon Carney had been involved in low-level anti-social behaviour and was at risk of becoming an offender but his passion for football led to him being referred to the college, who has helped to turn his life around.
"I left school with no qualifications and was getting into trouble in my local area, hanging round with gangs and doing nothing constructive with my time," he says. "My support worker referred me to the LFC Foundation College and I haven’t looked back in my life.
"This course has inspired me to turn my life around"
"I now play in the college team, have gained English and Maths and Sport qualifications. Last season I was rewarded by LFC Foundation College with a role as the kit man for the Under-19s and I put all the kit out on the way to the final at St. Georges Park. I become a lucky mascot for them.
"I was also rewarded with a trip to Madrid with the college team. I went to the Bernabeu and Vicente Calderon [Stadiums in Madrid] for a tour and played a game against a local team. This course has inspired me to turn my life around and in the future I would love to get a job involved in football."
So far the college has helped two male players sign professional contracts with clubs while one woman has signed for Liverpool FC Ladies team, have had two others move to colleges in the United States on four-scholarships while many have found employment within the academy, college or foundation.
Thanks to the college 25 people have attained Level 1 status in football coaching while 10 are coaching on the LFC Young Warriors scheme, which provides soccer schools for children aged 4-6 in the Merseyside area.
Most Premier League clubs offer educational programmes along the lines of those of LFC Foundation College. Please contact your nearest Premier League club for more information on equivalent programmes.