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Exciting Partnership Extension Announced

Event Date 
Thursday, 13 June, 2024

Pictured L to R: Ian McGuckin (HUFC Club Academy Manager), Gary Riches (HCFE Assistant Principal), Joe Monks (HUFC Head of Football Operations) and Ian Clark (Former HUFC Player, and HUFC Head of High Performance Sport)
Pictured L to R: Ian McGuckin (HUFC Club Academy Manager), Gary Riches (HCFE Vice Principal), Joe Monks (HUFC Head of Football Operations) and Ian Clark (Former HUFC Player, and HUFC Head of High Performance Sport) Picture: HUFC

Here at Hartlepool College we are delighted to announce a new exciting agreement with Hartlepool United that will see our academy-based partnership extended for a further two seasons, with plans provisionally identified beyond that. Incredibly, the Club and College have operated in Hartlepool as cornerstone institutions for a combined 288 years, and we now collectively look to build on that long association. Moving into its fifth year, the academy partnership is set to see some exciting new innovations and additions to the programme.

Since it was formed in August 2020, the Club has developed the programme alongside the College to bring in elite-level players for both their EFL Youth Football Alliance games programme and the National Colleges league, whilst simultaneously providing some exceptional education and training opportunities. Those combined factors have helped produce a series of success stories both on and off the pitch.

From a footballing perspective, last season alone saw Max Storey, Louis Stephenson, Campbell Darcy, and Alfie Steel all make their first-team debuts, having come through the Club’s academy programme that is supported by the College. Remarkably, three of those players have now been handed HUFC first-team contracts ahead of next season. Additionally, the programme has produced England U18s schoolboy honours for two players; Oscar Fletcher and Archie Small.

L to R: Gary Riches (HCFE Assistant Principal) shakes on the deal here with Joe Monks (HUFC Head of Football Operations)
Gary Riches (HCFE Vice Principal) shakes on the deal here with Joe Monks (HUFC Head of Football Operations) Picture: HUFC 

Several student-players, such as Charlie Rowe who studied engineering, have gone on to play semi-professionally whilst furthering their academic studies and giving dual opportunities in life beyond the programme. Equally, there have been some notable examples of student-players who progress into higher education or employment, with Toby Crawford recently gaining a prestigious scholarship to study Sport at the renowned Stirling University.

The link with the College currently enables two squads to run, the Under-18s representing Hartlepool United in the Youth Alliance against EFL Academies and an additional squad playing and training on a full-time basis in the National Colleges League. Plans are now in place to expand that and to develop the programme with further coaching, sports science, medical and analysis support for student-players being added. There will also be seven full-time scholars next season as part of the EFL programme who will study at the College.

Ian McGuckin, the Club’s academy manager, said: “This is now about building on some very exciting foundations from recent years as we look to further develop the programme and its offering. The past four years have shown what an incredible programme this can be for the Club, the town, and indeed the region. “There are real opportunities for talented players to come in, develop and to go on to represent Hartlepool United. “Additionally, we’re very proud to be able to offer an outstanding set of education and training options so that players also get the very best opportunities and develop off the field.”

Ian Clark, a former Pools player and the College’s head of high performance, said: “This fantastic partnership solidifies the educational aspect for these young men and provides opportunities. “We all know the challenges around trying to make it in professional football so, as well as providing the football chances, we can also ensure these students are on the right academic path too. “Whatever tools they need we will look to give them whether they end up being a professional footballer, playing semi-pro or learning a trade - we will provide them with what they need for that next step.

Ex Pool Footballers , Ian Clark and Ian McGuckin shake on the deal too
Ex Pool Footballers; Ian Clark and Ian McGuckin shake on the deal too, Picture: HUFC

Joe Monks, Hartlepool United’s Head of Football Operations, said: “The extension of the partnership is a culmination of several years of work between the Club and College and we’re all delighted to announce this new agreement with the intention that it grows and grows. “One of the key things that the Club has been working on behind the scenes over the past 4 years is development of an academy model that is sustainable and secure regardless of league status. This new agreement represents a very significant step forward in that goal. “These kinds of programmes take years to develop and we are now starting to see some fruits of that labour, which was evident in the number of academy players that made debuts last season. Joe Grey who had an excellent season is also a former HUFC academy player. “The College have been excellent to work with and as our partner, they ensure that the players receive outstanding training and education options.”

Gary Riches, the College’s vice principal, said: “Our mission says we are here to transform students’ lives and we want to breed that into the local community. “If that is through players in the academy then it makes sense for two of Hartlepool’s anchor institutions to work collaboratively and professionally. We are both aligned on that. “To have two former Pools players such as Ian Clark and Ian McGuckin working on this together is fantastic too – what great experience they can pass on to the student-players. “Extending and strengthening the partnership was an easy decision to make and we hope it produces not only talented young footballers but also strong people and professionals from the next generation coming through. “The Club-College programme also benefits the community through exciting projects on and off the pitch and a series of commercial and strategic plans have been put in place.”

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