Girls’ Football Week: Worthing College academy provides pathway to FA Women’s Premier League South champions Brighton

To celebrate The FA’s Girls’ Football Week, AoC Sport is producing a series of articles and features on different aspects of the female game throughout colleges.

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To kick-off the week, we spoke to Worthing College’s women’s academy coach Amy Merricks.

The academy is run in partnership with Brighton and Hove Albion FC – one of an increasing number of college academies who combine education with a pathway to a top women’s team.

Worthing’s academy team have enjoyed a successful season, finishing mid-table in the ECFA Category 1, gaining a silver medal at the AoC Sport National Championships and also reaching the AoC Sport National Colleges’ Cup final, where they face Accrington and Rossendale College next month.

Brighton, meanwhile, have had a equally successful season, winning the FA Women’s Premier League Southern Division and now preparing for a play-off for a spot in the Women’s Super League.

What opportunities do Worthing College give to female players with regards to progressing ultimately to the Brighton and Hove Albion first team?

The academy team is coached by Brighton and Hove Albion senior women and girls’ staff, which benefits a direct link to the club’s first team. Staff at the club can keep a close eye on their development and invite the players in the development squad or first-team set-up when appropriate.

How important is the college link to the future of Brighton and Hove Albion?

The college link provides Brighton and Hove Albion with an education programme that creates a similar environment to semi-professional football. It gives young female players a pathway into the Brighton first team and also attracts  new talent to the club at a young age.

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Have you seen any players progress from the college team to the Brighton and Hove Albion set up yet?

Many players have progressed from the academy team into the first team. Some of the most high-profile examples include: Wales senior international Amelia Ritchie, Charlotte Owen, Emily Baker and Lucy Somes.

To what extent do you feel the partnership with Brighton and Hove Albion and the success of the first team has on the determination and commitment of the college players? Does the pathway opportunity drive them to achieve more?

The success of the first team inspires the players to reach the highest level of women’s football. Showing the players a clear pathway of opportunities into the first team can only drive them onto achieve more. Training with senior coaching staff up to four times a week gives academy players a great head start.

How has the link with Brighton and Hove Albion helped the college team to succeed in reaching the national cup final and coming second in the National Championships?

As a club, we insist on players giving their best throughout every session and game. It also creates a winning mentality across the set-up, which will inspire the players to develop as much as possible.

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