U16 programme giving hope to released players

19 Sep 2021

See how Premier League initiative for Under-16s is developing young players without a club on and off the pitch

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To help young players who are released by club Academies, the Premier League's Under-16 development programme provides support across all different aspects of life.

Camps run at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre and Loughborough University earlier this year encouraged youngsters to continue with football, while exploring other avenues and to open up about their mental wellbeing.

"It's a programme to increase the support around players who are leaving the Academies at the end of their Under-16 year," explains David Rainford, Head of Education at the Premier League.

The two-day events focused on the three core pillars of continuing to develop the boys as a player, as a student and as a person.

'Ask questions, gain knowledge'

Former Swansea City and Everton defender Ashley Williams, who was released by West Bromwich Albion as a teenager, took part in a Q&A with the boys, while Blackburn Rovers midfielder Bradley Johnson also shared his experience to give perspective. 

"Use the people around you to ask questions, gain knowledge, and not be too critical of yourself," Williams told the boys. 

Owen Burns, who was released by Sunderland, spoke about how he has benefited from talking about his mental wellbeing.

"Opening your mind about mental health has been really important because I've experienced what it's like to be really high and impressed with yourself as well as what it's like to being released," said Burns, adding that he had left the event with a positive mindset.

"It's been really great and it's certainly going to help me to move forward in the future."

Also in this series

Part 1: 'We have a generation of exceptional talent'
Part 2: PL Academies provide positive experience, say parents
Part 3: How Liverpool helped Joel stay in football
Part 4: Onoabhagbe: League showed me options after my release
Part 6: Williams: There are prospects for released youngsters

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