*BS*DOVER ATHLETIC are to open a football academy in Faversham – after agreeing a partnership deal with The Abbey School.

*BF*The academy, based at the Faversham-based school, will open in September and provide students from across the county the chance to receive first-class coaching from qualified UEFA coaches, as well as study a range of academic and vocational post-16-year-old qualifications.

Dover Athletic, managed by Gillingham and Kent football hero Andy Hessenthaler, are an ambitious club who are currently running away with the Ryman League Premier Division title and bidding to become a future Football League outfit.

Club chairman Jim Parmenter said: “We want to provide a vehicle for students and young footballers to transport their dream to become a professional or semi-professional player.

“It’s also our wish to see young people get a good education. Football is a cut-throat business and not everyone will break into the professional ranks. We want to provide people with qualifications that will give them a great chance to enter other careers, either in support of being a semi-professional player or those who don’t make the final grade on the pitch, and the Abbey School meets all the criteria to provide that.”

Abbey School head teacher Catrin Woodend said: “We’re delighted to have Dover as a partner in this venture and are looking forward to helping students fulfil some of their ambitions with regard to their football, but also in achieving qualifications that will help provide them with a good start in life and a chance to progress to higher education.

“There is an excellent standard of football for students to aspire to, and at The Abbey School there is a thriving and expanding sixth form provision with excellent academic results.”

The academy will offer students a minimum six hours per week training, while enrolling on a choice of different courses that the school has to offer supporting the technical training programme.

Dover boss Hessenthaler is excited by the prospect of coaching the players.

He said: “I’m delighted we’ve managed to set up a scheme like this and look forward to working with the players. I’ve always had a mentality of bringing youngsters through in my time as a manager at Gillingham and here at Dover.

“It is at the core of what I want to achieve long-term here at Dover Athletic.”

*Q1*The Abbey School students and other local players will be encouraged to apply for places. It is recognised that not all players will be selected to play for Dover’s youth team and most will be encouraged to continue playing for their local clubs.

The students at the school are excited by the prospect, as they are aware of the opportunity that this could give them.

One Year 11 student said: “I hope I get in. It will be great to receive some professional full-time training and coaching. I can’t wait for the trials!”

To launch the academy, Dover Athletic will be holding an open evening at their Crabble ground on Thursday April 2, starting at 7pm.

Details of which will be available on both the school and club websites soon, along with a downloadable information pack

Any player interested in finding out more about the school and club can attend with their parents.

And if they bring their boots they can have a quick training session on the pitch with Andy Hessenthaler and some of the first-team players.

Academy manager Darren Hare, a teacher at the school, has a wealth of experience in developing elite young players.

Hare holds a UEFA ‘A’ Licence and has worked as head of youth at Gillingham and in Crystal Palace’s Youth Academy.

At the open evening, Hare will be delivering a presentation and is keen to stress that this is just an information evening.

He said: “The evening is designed to answer questions about how the academy will work from an academic and footballing point of view.

“It will not be a trial! I’d prefer to describe this as a taster session for what is to come. I hope to have answers for everyone’s queries on the night. Details of how to apply and the assessment process will be explained, along with forthcoming trial dates.”

Any player currently in Year 11 or 12 can attend the evening.