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Larne unveil college initiative with links to Rangers boss Steven Gerrard



School ties: Director of Education in NI Emmett Clerkin (left), Larne boss Tiernan Lynch

School ties: Director of Education in NI Emmett Clerkin (left), Larne boss Tiernan Lynch

Rangers chief Steven Gerrard

Rangers chief Steven Gerrard

School ties: Director of Education in NI Emmett Clerkin (left), Larne boss Tiernan Lynch

Larne manager Tiernan Lynch has spoken of his pride that the Inver Park outfit are following a similar path to professional clubs in England by launching a full-time sports diploma course in partnership with Liverpool Football College and in association with Steven Gerrard.

The course begins next month and will be the first to be offered by a football club in Northern Ireland, with Larne confident it will prove as successful as it has done for teams across the water.

Based at Inver Park, students will follow a sophisticated training programme which mirrors that of the Larne first team and will receive the opportunity to progress their education by completing an Edexcel BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in sport, which equates to three A Levels and carries up to 168 UCAS points.

From his time working on a similar course at Belfast Met College, Larne boss Lynch knows the benefits for young people in mixing football and education. With Rangers chief Gerrard associated with the plan, it adds gloss to an important project.

Lynch said: "This is a journey we have wanted to get involved with for a while now, that is to make the club full-time from the age of 16-years-old and provide pathways for our younger generation coming through.

"The opportunity to have a partnership with Liverpool Football College in association with Steven Gerrard speaks volumes. From the football perspective, we are now no different to any professional club in England or Scotland. Our boys will come in at 16 and follow the same model as our first team.

"They will come in on a day-to-day basis and train the same way, eat the same way and have the same strength and conditioning sessions. That will give them a huge lift up in trying to get into the first team set-up.

"It now also gives us a chance to genuinely look young players in the eye and say we can give them a pathway into full-time football, from our Academy onwards.

"Another big advantage of this is linking educational opportunities as a pathway to fall back on, because we know not everyone can make a living out of playing football. We feel this course offers the best preparation on and off the pitch."

Director of Education in NI Emmett Clerkin said: "We are all set for a September start and, whilst it has been a quick turnaround, the reason we are able to press ahead is because of the infrastructure in place at Larne Football Club.

"Primarily, this will be for pupils who have just finished their GCSEs, but we also tend to have some students who have been out of education for a year, or have done a year at sixth form or College and have decided it's not for them.

"We deliver two units per term, and these range from sports injuries to nutrition and fitness testing - every single aspect of sport, really. An exciting part of the course at Larne is that students will have the opportunity to apply for a two week learning exchange to Tenerife, here they will be given the chance to train with Spanish clubs.

"Young people who have aspirations of studying at university in the future will be able to access degrees here or overseas in the UK and America. Those with an appetite to travel abroad will be introduced to active employers including football clubs and coaching companies in countries such as America, Canada, Tenerife, Sri Lanka and Qatar."

Belfast Telegraph