Braintree Town Academy is on the move and manager Mark Sansom is excited about the new opportunities that will be opened up by a six-mile shift to Witham Town.
While students’ practical football coaching will continue at the Notley Discovery Centre and home games will remain at Coggeshall Town’s West Street ground, the relocation will see all the academy’s teaching sessions and administration move to Witham’s Village Glass Stadium from their present home at the Avanti Stadium.
It will see the academy forging close links with another of the district’s most prominent football clubs and Sansom is looking forward to extending the potential for his students to develop their sporting education.
As well as creating stronger links to a new area for future student recruitment and community involvement with coaching opportunities in schools and clubs around Witham, Sansom said the move will create a better pathway for players looking to have careers in senior football.
At the moment, the gulf between academy action in the Football Conference Youth Alliance and the Iron’s first team in the Vanarama National League is too large for many players to progress, however, the link with Witham will make it far easier for players to step up.
Sansom said it would allow academy scholars to play for Witham in the Ryman League with possible moves upwards to Braintree.
He said: “From a community aspect, this move will give us a whole new town to work in.
“That gives us a whole new list of schools and opens up huge new coaching perspectives for our students as we’ll be able to go into schools around Witham in the same way as we have with Braintree.
“We can also hold football camps in Witham as well as Braintree during holiday periods, which will be great.
“There’s also the aspect that this move will help us give boys a further stepping stone in the game as Ryman League football will be the perfect bridge for the gap to Braintree’s first team.
“So both clubs will see the benefits as Witham will see the best of our academy students and Braintree will hopefully see a better progression.
“We’ve seen Joe Maybanks and Alfie Walker out on loan at Sudbury and Canvey Island this year where we have to put our trust in other clubs to cater for their progression how we’d like, but this will allow a far better and structured progression.
“There are a whole lot of positives for the Braintree Town Academy with this move and it’s a very exciting one for us.
“We’ll be moving from next week and will continue to be the Braintree Town Academy for the rest of this academic year, but there is a possible plan that we will merge the branding of the two clubs in the name from September.”
Witham chairman Mark Nicholls added on the club’s website: “(this is a) Great move.
“Two local clubs now working together – it’s a win-win situation.
“At our board meeting, every member backed the move.
“It’s no longer them and us.
“It also shows that clubs want to give more to the local community and with Witham’s ever-growing youth set up, there is now a passage all the way up the football tree along with education.”