UPDATED: Blackpool youth team boss in shock move to Fleetwood

Academy boss Ciaran Donnelly
Academy boss Ciaran Donnelly
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Fleetwood Town have lured Blackpool academy manager Ciaran Donnelly to Highbury just days after he guided the Tangerine youth team to the league title.

The 33-year-old, who has served the club as both a player and a coach for a combined total of 13 years, has now been appointed as Head of Academy with neighbours Town.

Donnelly recently orchestrated a trophy double for the Seasiders, with his charges winning the North West Youth Alliance league at the weekend courtesy of a 3-0 win against Morecambe.

That came after the youth team had won the Lancashire FA Youth Cup with a penalty shootout win against Bury.

He now takes on a role at Town’s £9m Poolfoot Farm training base recently vacated by Stuart Murdoch, who moved into a new Director of Player Development role in March.

In a statement released on Blackpool’s official website, Donnelly said he is confident Blackpool’s youth team will remain in good hands.

“I would like to place on record my appreciation to Blackpool Football Club for the opportunities I’ve had while at Bloomfield Road,” he said.

“It has been an amazing experience, I’ve worked with lots of fantastic staff and felt an immense sense of pride seeing the development of the academy in the last six years.

“We have some fantastic players coming through at all ages and I know I leave behind some good people and coaches who will build on the foundations that have been laid in the academy.”

A spokesperson for the club said: “Blackpool Football Club would like to thank Ciaran for all his hard work and dedication in the academy and wish him well for the future.”

Donnelly, who played for Town back in 2007, will be responsible for the management and direction of the club’s youth development program.

Fleetwood chairman Andy Pilley spoke of his delight at the move.

“He's someone we've known for a long time following his brief spell here as a player and have more recently monitored the excellent job he's done at Blackpool,” he said.

“Last season he managed the league and cup double with his U18s side and we believe we have appointed one of the top young prospects around to run our academy.

“Ciaran will continue the excellent work done by Stuart Murdoch and the staff in our academy and help drive it forward to the next level.

“We are a dynamic and forward thinking football club and we are confident Ciaran is exactly the type of person and character for our club.

“The academy is something I'm incredibly proud of and we were delighted to see the first group of players from it sign professional terms in recent weeks.

“Under Ciaran's leadership we look forward to an even more exciting future.”

There have been more movements behind the scenes at Fleetwood with head groundsman Dale Frith announcing his departure after six and a half years service at the club.

Frith will join PSD Agronomy as a Senior Consultant specialising in the overall Design, Installation and Management of Sports Turf, in a role that will see him working both from home and overseas.

He said: “I joined the club when we were in the Conference and it’s safe to say it has been brilliant to be a part of the rise of the club to where we are now.

“Me and my team won Groundsman of the Year in 2010/11 in the Conference, the same award in League Two in 2013/14, and we were nominated in 2014/15 for League One.

“I have been proud to be associated with the club and it is with a very heavy heart that I will be moving on to a new chapter of my career.”

Town’s chief executive, Steve Curwood said: “In my opinion (and many others), he is one of the country’s finest groundsmen.

“It has been a pleasure to work alongside Dale, as well as a great learning experience over the time we have worked together.

“I am sure I represent everyone at the club in wishing him all the best in his new role.”