Worthing manager Adam Hinshelwood is delighted to see his pipedream come to fruition after the club announced plans to run a new academy and education programme from next season.
The club already runs a Development Centre ranging from under-seven to under-16 and the academy will run teams at under-14, under-15 and under-16 age groups, who will play in the Sussex Sunday Youth Football League.
The education programme offers 16 to 19 year olds the opportunity to complete a nationally-recognised BTEC level 3 qualification in sport, as well as receiving full-time, professional coaching from the club’s first team coaches Aarran Racine and Cameron Morrison and led by manager Hinshelwood. Players will also be eligible to play for the club's under-18 side.
The club has had 33 players represent the first team having come through the youth set-up in the past three seasons and chairman George Dowell said: “Having played for the under-18 team myself and making the step up to the first team, this is something I’m passionate about.
“The vision of the club is to one day have a team full of homegrown players, this is the next step towards achieving that goal."
First-team manager Hinshelwood said: "We want to get the best local players in the area and give them a pathway into men's football.
"If we can get hours into them from a young age, then by the time they get to 16, 17, 18, they'll be more equipped with the style the first team want to play.
"Myself, Aaran and Cam, working with the Development Centre, want to create something and be part of something special.
"We want to have players come up through our system and then play in the first team or go off, as it's rewarding to see.
"The likes of Will Hendon, Lloyd Dawes, Jack Cook and obviously Omar Bugiel came through when I was here previously and are playing a league higher still.
The more lads from Sussex that have the quality to go and play at Conference South and above, that's going to work better for the club in the long run."
Hinshelwood, who returned to the club for a second spell as manager in September, added: "I see my future here for a good few years to come and this provides me with even more hunger to stay at Worthing and see these lads through and see it all come to fruition.
"It's the pipedream I had when I came back; to put this structure in place.
"You've got Brighton on the door step and if they stay up in the Premier League, they're going to recruit bigger and better players from all over the world.
"The level then goes up and the ability levels they're looking for goes up, so there will be more lads that don't make that grade and they'll be looking for somewhere to go and play.
"I'm hoping we'll get the better players in the area and give them that pathway. If that means they're playing in our first team at 16 or 17 and then find their way back into the pro game, then brilliant.
"We're still a stepping stone for that but hopefully players will like what we do here and it would have to be a real good move for them to leave the club because we want to be ambitious ourselves."
Talking about setting the academy up, Worthing managing director Calvin Buckland said: "A few years ago I was a parent whose son had just been released from a pro club at 16.
"We were faced with numerous choices as to what to do next, so I fully understand the concerns and apprehensions parents will have about joining our type of programme.
"We can only be open and transparent as to what we offer and to reassure them of our commitment. Many parents will be thinking 'it sounds great but I'm not sure I want my son being a guinea pig' and that probably would have been my initial reaction too.
"Although it will be new here, our Development Centre partners, Volenti Academy, have been running a very successful programme in Croydon for the last few years.
"SCL, our education partner, are also vastly experienced in delivering these programs in a huge number of both non-league and professional clubs.
"I would urge anyone considering either college or another football-based programme to come and speak to someone at the club and get a feel for it themselves."
Anyone interested in joining the academy for next season, can email firstname.lastname@example.org