North East college nets national glory

Gateshead College has been awarded the prestigious Focus College status by the FA and British Colleges Sport for encouraging and enabling young people to get involved in football through playing, coaching and volunteering.

The Focus College status is the top level that can be awarded to an FE college for their commitment to football development provision. Only ten colleges are selected each academic year to be a part of the programme.

Gateshead is one of only two colleges in the country which have been named football Centres of Excellence by the FA.

Lewis Pendleton, head of sport at Gateshead College, said: "This is an incredible achievement and demonstrates that we are a college committed to developing football and increasing participation across all levels.

"We provide opportunities for all of our students to get involved in football, not just those studying sport qualifications, and understand the benefits being active and playing team sports can bring to young people."

The college has also joined the FA's Team 19 initiative which encourages students aged 16 to 19 on any course to become involved in football by organising their own college matches. Through the project students compete nationally against other colleges through a 'virtual' leader board system.

Gateshead College's Academy for Sport, at Gateshead International Stadium, is dedicated to sport education and supports students who are focussed on training towards a career in sport. Its facilities include 3rd generation pitches and an English Institute of Sport, Olympic-standard gym.

It has 11 specialist sport academies, including a Men's Football Development Centre and Women's Football Academy, which support talented students by providing them with nine hours of professional coaching as well as performance and conditioning sessions.

The college's partnership with Gateshead FC provides opportunities for college players to join the club's first team coaching and training sessions, while selected elite Gateshead College players make-up the entire Gateshead FC youth team.

Paul Bryson, head football coach at Gateshead College, added: "Our aim is to create real opportunities for talented young footballers to turn their skill and passion for the game into a career. By linking with local clubs like Gateshead, Sunderland, Newcastle and Hartlepool we are widening the possibilities for our students to become involved in football at a professional level.

"We also have a three-tiered approach which means that we can accommodate all levels of talent and have a clear progression pathway for student footballers- starting at 'development' and moving through to 'performance' and then 'elite'."

The college has already helped to launch the playing careers of Darren Holden (Hartlepool FC), Scott Martindale (Hibernian FC), Chris Basham (Bolton & Blackpool FC), Kris Thackray (Regina FC), Adam Reach (Middlesbrough FC) and Josh Gillies (Gateshead FC).

The college's football coaching team includes experienced and talented individuals including Paul Bryson, a UEFA 'A' accredited coach and Gateshead FC's assistant coach and reserve team manager and also Sunderland AFC's academy coach; Mick Tait former player and NUFC scout and Anthony Smith, ex Sunderland AFC player.

In addition to men's and women's football, the college has academies in rugby, golf, netball, cricket, basketball, athletics, boxing, rowing and swimming.