A fantastic article written by Andy Tong of the Tunbridge Wells Times, about our promising young Scholars.
A FOOTBALL academy that allows boys over the age of 16 to complete their education while fine-tuning their playing skills is opening in Rusthall in September.
The EMC Scholarship Programme offers sixth formers 'the chance to live the life of a professional footballer whilst completing their education, completely free of charge'.
And the organisers are keen to point out that they offer an alternative route to achieving qualifications that might suit some young people who struggle in school.
EMC has been based in Crowborough for the last four seasons, but will now move to the 'next level' at Rusthall's Rackliff Centre.
Academy manager Henry Muggeridge, who represented England at the six-a-side World Cup last year, said: "Our Scholarship Programme will now run as independent football academy.
"This means we can now use our contact list, which ranges from the English Football League down to step six, to find the players on our programme the right level of football."
Henry, who currently plays for Whitehawk, previously captained Crowborough Athletic, where his father Sean is first-team coach.
He added: "We believe in giving all players an opportunity, and we have had some great success stories come from our Academy.
'We’ve managed to completely turn the boys' fortunes around and get them on the straight and narrow again'
"There are players who are now playing a very good level, some are on scholarships at USA universities, and some are even working for us full-time.
"We have won everything on a local level but now we want to compete on a national level."
He stressed that the programme offers a proven option for those who may have struggled in mainstream education.
"We’ve had boys come through our programme who schools and other clubs hadn’t offered anything to due to their behaviour or grades.
"Then we’ve managed to completely turn their fortunes around and get them on the straight and narrow again.
"We’ve had other lads who had been expelled from their schools come into us, who no one else would offer a place to, who have now gone on to universities in the UK and abroad.
"We find a different way to motivate young players - our man management is second to none, and we bring out the best in them.
"There is proof in the pudding, not only with our fantastic success on the football pitch, but also with our impressive 97 per cent pass ratio on our academic course."
Henry, who also played for Bristol City, said that EMC's work ethic was a key part in inspiring the young men to make a success of themselves.
"In a way we are a bit like the school of hard knocks," he said. "As long as someone is willing to come along and work hard and give their all to the programme, we will work with them and give them an opportunity.
"Regardless of grades we will offer all players a full-time football and educational programme."
The EMC staff boasts former professional players John Paul Kissock and Teddy Bloor, as well as England six-a-side manager Jamie Leggett and sports physiotherapists.
The students will emerge from the two-year scholarship programme with Uefa A licences alongside a B-Tec sport qualification.
They will compete in a national youth league and cup competition, playing fixtures against junior sections of Premier League clubs - and embarking on a mid-season tour to Marbella.
Last season was EMC's first campaign in the BCA Colleges national league - and after a tough start they are unbeaten so far this year.
"It took us a few games to get use to the level with majority of our squad still being 16," said Henry, "but we hit form at the back end of the season."
As well as training every day, they will receive video appraisals and GPS performance analysis, while their wider fitness will be served by a nutritional programme and weight training.
There are 10 places available at the new centre, but with the lockdown in place EMC will be holding Skype interviews for any players looking to sign up for September.
All current year 11, 12 and 13 students are asked to call 07894 823459 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an interview.