They think it’s all over… it’s not now! Ex-AFC Wimbledon player founds training facility for unsigned footballers

For many aspiring young footballers the abyss after being released by a club can be the stuff of nightmares.

Worries about if another opportunity will emerge and the whether or not you can maintain the skill and fitness levels required.

A former AFC Wimbledon youth team player has gone about offering a solution to this issue for footballers of all ages and backgrounds.

Renaldo Sutherland, who was released by the Dons when he was 18 years old, has established the PiTS training facility near Canada Water in the hope of providing the necessary facilities for players to train and prolong their careers in.

Sutherland explained that his experiences with the Dons were extremely valuable but also revealed how initially devastated he was after his release and the premature end to his lifelong footballing ambition.

“This was possibly the hardest thing to hear for an 18 year old, that the dream I had dedicated so much of my childhood and teenage years to achieving was not going to come true,” he confessed.

Lower league standards and facilities became an unsatisfactory alternative for the former Tooting and Mitcham player.

He also realised he was not alone as fellow contemporaries were experiencing the same lack of guidance and support.

“I believe that, if there had been an outlet for me to continue training at a professional standard independent from a club, I could still have pursued my aspiration to become a footballer,” he said.

PiTS, as a result of Sutherland’s experiences, focuses mainly on reinvigorating the careers of released, semi-pro and grass roots players.

The project is not a club but looks to provide a safety net by linking up with professional institutions to ensure players are not left out in the cold.

Clubs also have the option of sending their players down to the facility to encourage high intensity training and monitor their development.

The aim is to replicate a professional level environment and through the registered UEFA A/B coaches, regular nutrition advice and video analysis, PiTS is far from restricted to just the composition of a 90-minute game.

“We pride ourselves on not being a football club – the aspiration of becoming a footballer does not die because you have been released,” he said.

“The aspiration of becoming a footballer does not die because you have been released.”

“We want the playing field to be even for all footballers. All training at the same level, so there are no more excuses.”

Sutherland believes that the establishment’s, three main pillars – small group training, sports analysis and player autonomy are the foundations for success.

The formula appears to be paying off as PiTS member Renato Vokrri has been rewarded for his sustained development with a professional club contract elsewhere.

The project has also received backing from players who have reached the higher echelons of the game.

West Ham’s Blair Turgott, Zac Ansah at Charlton and Blackpool’s Charles Dunne have all voiced their support for the facility.

After an extremely encouraging pre-season month of training in August which saw 200 players recruited, PiTS will be looking to sign on more members over the winter period to ensure development levels from all standards are sustained.

Sutherland offered some words of advice to aspiring and potentially naïve young footballers on the periphery of success, as he insisted that complacency is a growing issue.

He stressed: “You need to constantly monitor your situation at all times in football – good or bad – because everything can change in a season.

“Many footballers don’t realise your body is an asset, so you have to look after yourself.”

PiTS members will have access to top level facilities five days a week, including strength and conditioning training, yoga and video analysis.

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