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Developing & Supporting The Person

Leo Young for award.jpg

The Academy Management team is responsible for enhancing the journey of all its players through the academy and for providing a programme that supports the development of the person.

Whilst there are many positives about participating in academy football, a significant proportion of young people who enter academy football will not have a professional football career and there is a need to manage their expectations, support their holistic development and prepare them for the next part of their journey.

One of our core Academy Values is 'memories' to ensure all players in the academy will receive lots of opportunities to learn new skills, have new experiences and create life lasting memories.

Player care

Our Player Care department is always on hand to support those experiences and generally leads all non-sporting and non-medical aspects of a player’s time at a club. Our emphasis is on developing life skills and giving young people a basis to thrive.

Nigel Higgs Development Award

The Nigel Higgs Development Award is to highlight individuals within the academy who demonstrate intrinsic behaviours (away from the pitch), to better themselves and / or others and encourage them to think about how it’s up to them to set their own limits to what can be achieved.


2022: Ben Mason (Under 18s)

Watch the interview with Ben

2021: Leo Young (Under 16s)

Read about Leo winning the 2021 Award

Academy Dons Forever

Recognising staff who have played a pivotal role in the academies progression since its formation in 2011.

Jenna Richards (2022)

In just under a decade of service at the academy Jenna played a huge role in the development of the academy programme, forming the Academy Sports Science and Medical Department which helped the academy achieve its category 3 status. Jenna was part of the staff team that won the EFL Youth Alliance Cup in 2020 and the EFL Youth Alliance title in 2022.

Read more about Jenna's departure after a decade of loyal service.

James Oliver Pearce (2022)

James spent just under a decade at the academy and was part of the coaching set up that won the Youth Alliance Cup in 2020. He then led the Under 18s to the Youth Alliance title in 2022 and alongside this played a pivotal role in the development of players who have gone on to start their professional careers. James left the club in 2022 to take up a role within the first team set up at Reading FC.

Read the heartfelt farewell message from James.

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