In what will be a first of such a working relationship in the Irish League, this partnership will have significant benefits to both clubs, particularly in the area of youth development.
Six representatives of Loughgall FC and Loughgall Youth were invited to Huddersfield Town on Tuesday 17th August to sign the formal agreement, meet key staff and be guests at the first team game against Preston at the John Smith Stadium.
This partnership is massive for Loughgall FC and especially Loughgall Youth. It is more than an affiliation, rather a working relationship that involves youth players right up to the first team.
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Specifically, there will be regular trips to and from each club by coaches, player trials, friendly games from youth level right up to first team, possible player loan agreements and most importantly a special group of young ‘emerging talent’ that will be managed and developed by Huddersfield Town FC Academy staff.
Loughgall Youth is already recognised as one of the best in the country, having helped produced players like full Northern Ireland internationals Luke McCullough and Ryan McGivern among others that moved to full-time football.
This new partnership will take the club to a new level.
“Following many months of discussions, it is great that we are now commencing our working relationship with Huddersfield Town FC,” said David Johnstone – Loughgall Youth Development Manager.
“We had discussions with several clubs in England and Scotland but right from our first zoom call, Huddersfield Town FC was an excellent fit due to the similarities of both clubs.
“It is hard to overstate just how significant this development is. We will be able to benefit from the very latest in youth development and player analysis as well as have our best young players monitored by full-time professionals.
“Given this exciting relationship, added the quality coaching and superb facilities, there simply is not a better place for young players to develop, become the best they can be and have the potential of full-time football.”
Emyr Humphries, Academy Manager at Huddersfield Town FC, explained how the partnership came about.
“As a club and an Academy, we are always striving to be better and searching for innovative ways to develop,” he said.
“Over the last six months, we have been actively looking for enthusiastic partner clubs to expand our recruitment network and our long term recruitment strategy.
“It was very clear from our early conversations with the people at Loughgall FC that we shared very similar values and philosophies on the way to develop players.
“Our main aim from this partnership is to provide a clear pathway for the most ambitious and hard working young players in Northern Ireland to come over to England and be successful.
“In order to achieve this, we will be working closely with the staff at Loughgall to ensure that the children within their Academy get a taste of what life is like at a full time Academy in England.
“Hopefully this partnership will help to develop future 1st team players for both HTAFC and Loughgall FC but more importantly we hope to provide these children with some great experiences along the way.”
Loughgall Youth Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Loughgall FC, James Johnston, believes this exciting new link-up ties in well with the club’s ambitious development plans.
“We are absolutely delighted with this partnership and really excited to start working with HTFC and their Academy,” he said.
“I’d like to thank Town’s Academy Manager Emyr Humphreys for the opportunity to be working together and thanks to our Head of Youth Development David Johnstone as well as Ernie Smyth and Denver Calvin who have all been key figures ensuring this partnership got over the line
“Our Senior/Youth committees set ambitious targets of where we wanted to be as a club. We’ve made huge strides in recent years to achieve these with our new Willis/CRL 3G Arena, Gym, Education Suite, refurbished Premiership-ready Lakeview Park.
“We have further exciting developments planned at the club to ensure we can continue to offer a state of the art, professional learning environment for all young players pulling on a Loughgall jersey at 4-5 years of age right through to Senior team.
“Now thanks to this exciting partnership with HTFC the opportunity to progress even further and fulfill their dreams as professional footballer overseas.”
Those views were echoed by first team manager Dean Smith.
He said: “I believe this partnership demonstrates the ambitions we have as a football club and shows our commitment to ensuring there’s a clear pathway for our players to fulfill their full potential if good enough.
“To be able to see up close how a top full-time professional club operates, visit their training ground and meet their staff can only be good for us as a club.”