London City Lionesses hosted our youth academy, London City Lionesses Kent Player Development Programme (PDP), at Princes Park ahead of their respective Preseasons. The night, held on Wednesday 28 of July, presented a unique opportunity to bring in all the academy players along with their parents into the Princes Park training ground to discuss the significance of the partnership, what it represents and the bright aspirations it sets to bring for the youth players' careers in the women’s game under the Pride.
London City Lionesses announced the official partnership with LCL Kent PDP, formerly known as Kent Elite, back on 29 of March. It was a special day as it was the date which officially allowed all youth and grassroots outdoor sport to officially reconvene and compete again after a long unprecedented year dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
We sat down with London City Lionesses Sporting Director, Edward Gallagher, who led the Parents’ evening to speak on the partnership.
Tell us about the year ahead with the new LCL Kent PDP partnership and your thoughts on the Parents’ night:
Edward Gallagher: “It went really well. I think it was fantastic to have all the players and parents across all youth age groups in for the first time here at Princes Park. We’ve obviously had a tough start last year with COVID, but it’s fantastic to have everyone in after the summer break so were very excited to move forward and start our partnership with our youth academy.”
The partnership presents itself as a distinctive way for London City Lionesses to establish their involvement within the women’s game from the grassroots level up to First team professional football. The hope is for the partnership to ensure a steady flow of players in London City Lionesses.
Tell us about the significance of this partnership:
Edward Gallagher: “I think something that’s really important to the club, certainly over the last couple years, is the longevity of the club. We want to be here for a long time. We want to make sure we’ve got an infrastructure, and a plan in place to make sure that in ten years time, London City is going to be here competing at the top level.
It’s important to have the academy team that sets up into the development team. We have our grassroots and our academic partners as well to make sure that we offer football for all, but with the idea that we’re trying to get as many players into the First team so that we can grow our own players here."
As a part of the partnership, there is equally an emphasis on the academic aspect, as well as the football development aspect.
The club places a major emphasis on the academic aspect to this partnership. What does this entail?:
Edward Gallagher: “At London City, we place importance on the football aspect of the club, but there are other aspects that are important to the players. The young kids who come in to play at London City, they’re football players, but they’re also people. So we try our hardest to develop them off the pitch as well as on the pitch. Within that, there’s obviously the academic side. We have partnerships with local high schools. We have partnerships with local universities…to ensure that any player that comes through our pathway to develop them as a professional football, or to potentially have an academic route as well.”
The London City Lionesses First will play their first unofficial home game at Princes Park in a friendly against Barclays WSL side, West Ham United Women. Despite being behind closed doors, the youth players within the Pride’s development programme will be able to attend.
Edward Gallagher: “The whole point in running an academy program is to create players for the first team, so we want these players to see what they’re in for. As part of the partnership, we’ll ensure that as much as possible we try and get the academy players to attend First team games. So that’s going to start at our behind-closed-doors friendly on the 15th of August, where they’ll have the opportunity for these players to come in, watch the new signings we’ve made in action and hopefully have their heart set on potentially getting into the first team in the future.”
The partnership demonstrates the determination, ambitions as well as the excitement for London City Lionesses. It allows the opportunity for 60 new youth players to wear London City Lionesses gear with Pride and pursue their aspirations of being a professional footballer within the women’s game.