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Northern Ireland's new full-time Academy will give young stars better chance to succeed in England, says Magilton

Helping hand: Jim Magilton is delighted to have a
National Academy in NI
Helping hand: Jim Magilton is delighted to have a National Academy in NI

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland football has been handed a boost with Uefa giving the go-ahead to establish a new full-time National Academy here.

The Irish FA's Elite Performance Director Jim Magilton has told the Belfast Telegraph that the Academy will offer talented young footballers in the country a greater understanding of what life is like at clubs across the water and should provide them with an enhanced chance of making the grade.

In the past, nations such as Georgia and Macedonia have benefited from the scheme and now European football's governing body has decided to help fund the project in Northern Ireland.

It starts next month in Jordanstown with 18 gifted teenagers aged from 14 entering the Academy working on key elements of their football education.

The Irish FA's Club NI programme has developed a host of fine young players who are now with clubs in England and Scotland and former Northern Ireland hero Magilton believes the Academy will provide a platform for more to be a hit in professional football.

"Having the first full-time National Academy in Northern Ireland is very exciting," said Magilton.

"It will give the young players all the preparation that will be needed in order for them to get used to being away from home, training habits, social habits and giving them a greater learning and understanding of what life is like should they make the move to England or Scotland at 16.

"The Academy will give us an opportunity to work with the boys on a daily basis."

Those in the Academy will attend their own schools, continuing their schoolwork.

It is understood some have relocated and changed schools to be closer to the Academy.

"The Academy can give the players greater confidence to walk into clubs in England or Scotland safe in the knowledge that they have had a really educational time based on the four pillars that are assessed when they get there; technical, tactical, psychological and physical," said Magilton, who was recently considered for the Cork City manager's job before the vacancy was filled.

"The pitch sessions will take care of themselves. There will also be all sorts of life skills and programmes put in place.

"It's a big decision to leave the safe surroundings of your parents at 16, their friends and club to go to a football club in a different country but we are hoping to give them the self-esteem and confidence that will give them a head start.

"I left home at 16 and know how tough it is. I was one of the lucky ones who went on and had a career and to be able to mould and nurture young players now is huge for me.

"When this programme came out several years ago I was battering Uefa's door down for us to be given the opportunity to build a National Academy.

"Now, we have been given the go-ahead.

"It's brilliant for us and I think it is recognition of all the good work that has already been done within Club NI."

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