Notts County were in Hucknall for a high-profile, pre-season match - and they’re here to stay.
For as The Magpies were beating Hucknall Rolls Leisure 4-1 in a friendly, details emerged of an exciting, permanent link-up with the town.
County are to set up a pathway academy, based at the Rolls-Royce Leisure Club on Watnall Road, for young footballers aged between 16 and 18.
And not only will the unique academy offer football coaching but also educational qualifications, leaving the youngsters with the option, after their two-year course, of entering the professional game or going to university.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” said Jamie Brough, who is the new director of football at Rolls.
“The pathway academy is believed to be the first in the country. Notts County are very excited about it.”
The academy is primarily for players not offered a full-time contract at Meadow Lane at the age of 16. But it will be open to anyone to apply, boys or girls. “They will be coached by Notts County staff at Rolls and treated like a professional footballer,” said Brough.
“They will train on site, be educated on site and even eat on site. Rolls has all the facilities, including a gym, rooms for education, kitchen and three full-sized football pitches.
“The youngsters will also play showcase games, and get the chance to play some club football.
“Exactly how many youngsters will be involved depends on the funding streams and education providers.”
The pathway academy is part of a strong partnership that Notts County are building with Hucknall Rolls.
The site almost became the club’s new training base, to replace Highfields in Nottingham, but The Magpies opted for Arnold Town’s Eagle Valley Stadium set-up instead because it is more enclosed, private and secure.
However County are to hold an open training session during the school holidays at Rolls, giving kids the chance to meet and greet the players. And sportsman’s evenings are scheduled for the winter too.
Last week’s friendly match launched the partnership, and attracted a healthy-sized crowd of 302.
Derry played himself in The Magpies’ youthful line-up, but the star of the show was young Frenchman Jeremy Balmy, who scored two wonder goals and also won a penalty that was converted by Tyrell Waite.
Balmy hit a dipping half-volley from 20 yards and later fired a stunning volley past the ‘keeper to cap an outstanding move.
Brad McGowan had headed County into a 19th minute lead, with Greg Conn netting Rolls’s consolation goal at 3-0, glancing home a teasing free-kick into the box.
Rolls boss Jez Corthorn said he was delighted by his side’s display. “Fitness counted obviously,” he said. “But it was a brave performance. We tried to play some football.”
OTHER pre-season friendly results: Hucknall Town 6 Holbrook 3, Hucknall Town 0 Shirebrook 1, Hucknall Town 1 Bilsthorpe 5, Bulwell 3 Dunkirk 1, Linby Colliery Welfare 1 Loughborough Dynamo 6, Kirton Brickworks 1 Linby Colliery Welfare 8, Basford United 8 Hucknall Rolls Leisure 1.