Sutton United contact the EFL in hope of expanding their academy

Sutton United are working to expand their academy structure in the wake of achieving a maiden promotion to the English Football League in May.

The academy is currently operating at category four level, offering playing contracts to the under-18s and above, and an application has been filed with the EFL’s Youth Development Department for them to be category three status.

This would enable Marvin Williams, the academy director at Sutton United, to register players from the under-nines upwards.

“Most teams in the football leagues have category three academies so it’s important for us to become fully licenced to compete with the likes of AFC Wimbledon and Stevenage,” Williams admitted.

The EFL’s ruling is still pending but this has not stifled Williams, who continues to build his coaching prowess by recalling his experiences as a footballer, which began at Millwall’s academy, and the different managerial styles he played under.

He said: “I can implement what I’ve seen at Millwall, but it’s not really about my individual journey, it’s about what I’ve learnt throughout my career.

“My son plays for the Chelsea’s under-13s and I’ve looked at how they do things with recruitment and pre-academy.

“We’re never going to have the same resources as them, but we’re taking pieces of information on board and it’s nice to see that we also approach things like bigger academies.”

Williams decided to make the move to coaching while still contracted as a non-league player, foreseeing that his return to top-flight football was highly unlikely. 

He successfully applied to Ultimate Coaching, through which he began to train children of various age groups, strengthening his professional pedigree.

“I improved as a coach and learnt how to inspire kids with short attention spans and engage with those who wanted to be somewhere else.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with eight-year-olds or 18-year-olds, you have to break barriers down by giving kids leadership roles and setting them challenges.

“I’m in more of a management role now but those skills I developed are extremely transferable.”

As Williams strives to build his academy, he is determined to nurture South London talent and produce a future crop of footballers capable of challenging seasoned professionals.

“We have a five-year plan with the under-18s where the aim is to be competitive, develop strong players internally and recruit good youngsters externally,” he said.  

“I want a child to leave a big club and choose to join us.

“Then, once we have them, we have a duty to develop our players so that they either get into the first team or get into another club.”

Player development, not score lines, is Williams’ primary concern, but that being said he does view the FA Youth Cup as a worthwhile pursuit through which Sutton can demonstrate the quality of its academy.

To remain competitive in that cup competition, Sutton are tasked with scouting younger footballers capable of flourishing in the future.

Recruitment of this kind is not easy but the FA Cup run which the Us mounted in 2017, reaching the last 16 after beating Leeds United, put them on the map and should help increase the academies’ popularity.

Being able to entice prospective footballers to join the Us is particularly imperative, given than Sutton’s business model is built around creating players from within.

“We have to be diligent in our recruitment to compete with bigger clubs so we can’t leave any stone unturned,” Williams said.

“But then again a lot of professional footballers come from South London; the area builds a different type of character and that feeds into each player.

“I’m one of those players and I played with plenty more at Millwall.”

And so, as Sutton United waits for its academy to be granted category three status, Williams continues to mine the next football prodigies of south London.

Photo credit: Marvin Williams

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12 December 2021 2:53 pm

Well done Marvin

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