Haverhill Rovers considering entering some youth teams into the Junior Premier League
Haverhill Rovers are exploring the possibility of entering some of their youth teams in the soon-to-be launched Nerf Junior Premier League.
The east is one of the only regions in which the league does not currently operate, with almost 1,110 teams – including the likes of Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion – from across the entire country under its umbrella.
However, it will get under way when the 2020/21 campaign is given the green light by the government – and Rovers could well feature.
Peter Betts, the New Croft’s football development manager, said: “It is something we are looking at.
“It is a bit of a challenge because of the current situation. It is the sort of thing we would have ordinarily done a lot of work on between March and June, but obviously that hasn’t been possible this year.
“We have three very good Eastern Junior Alliance teams that play on Sundays and we are reluctant to use them on the Saturday (in the Junior Premier League) as well.
“These are lads that are still growing and to do that would be too challenging, but hopefully we may have a couple of our youth sides go into it. It is something new and something that looks very professional.
“It has good credentials and a lot of the clubs involved have said plenty of positive things.”
The league, which was launched in 2011 in the Midlands and south west, is designed to bridge the gap between grassroots football and the professional game.
At present, statistically one player from each team is picked up by a professional club’s academy, with an estimated 50 per cent of matches attended by scouts.
Teams from age groups under-8 to U18 will play others from their respective regions in a traditional league format before the winners enter into National Play-Off against other champions. There is also a cup competition that opens up nationally.
Each league also put together representative teams that in recent years have featured against the like of Chelsea and Manchester City, as well spending some time at the Real Madrid academy.
For founder and league chairman Martin Brock, he is excited to be bringing his product to the east.
“I founded the league because I felt there was an issue with grassroots players getting into the professional game,” he said.
“Our aim is to get the best players coming up against each other, and all of them receiving the best coaching.
“We want high standards in all our leagues. We are picky about where teams are playing because you cannot play good football on a cow field, and all coaches must be a minimum of (FA) Level 2 qualified. Right now, I think half are UEFA B or above.
“There are trophies to win, but our league is more about the development of players and keeping them interested in the game.
“In a lot of youth leagues, between 40 and 60 per cent of players drop out the game between the ages of under-12 and under-16. In our league, it is currently just three per cent.
“It is constantly evolving. We ask the players what they do and don’t like, and if we can implement those requests we will.
“At the moment one in 11 of the players from our leagues are signing for a pro academy. Herbie Kane (Liverpool, on loan at Hull City) played in the league and so have a few in League One and League Two.
“We are excited about launching in the east. It has taken a bit of time because we wanted to make sure of our product and that what we offered was a good alternative because there are already some strong leagues.”
Teams signed up from the east: Lowestoft, Needham Market, Bury Town, Fitch (Braintree), Stanway Rovers, King’s Lynn Town, Mildenhall Town, St Neots Town, Peterborough United, Future (Norwich), Personal Best (Norfolk) and Peterborough Sports