Donnelly's vision for Fleetwood academy

Fleetwood Town's new academy supremo Ciaran Donnelly has stressed the need for long-term goals in his bid to provide a pathway of progress for young players at Poolfoot Farm.

Tuesday, 23rd May 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:16 pm
Ciaran Donnelly

Ex-Fleetwood player Donnelly has returned to Town after orchestrating a league and Lancashire FA Youth Cup double for Blackpool’s Under-18s this season.

And the 33-year-old says one of his goals is to develop more homegrown players.

He wants more success stories like Fleetwood lad Billy Crellin, who signed a three-year professional contract in December after rising through the club’s ranks from the age of eight.

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The Under-18 keeper even joined in first team warm-ups on match days while Chris Neal was injured.

The passionate Donnelly believes the youth structure is the heart of the club. He said: “An academy cannot be built overnight – it is for the long-term future of this football club.

“The club has obviously done fantastically well in recent years at first-team level. For that to continue and be sustainable into the distant future it needs to be producing its own players.

“Of course you will always sign players but the core of the club comes from the academy. I believe the beating heart of any club is the academy, producing your own players who the fans can relate to.

“Throughout the country and the world fans have an affiliation with players, hopefully local players, who have come through their own club and that is something we have to aim to do.

“Yes, we want the U18s to do well in their league in the short-term but the bigger picture is to get more players through to the U23s, then hopefully to the first team.

“The long-term project is for this club to have a lot of players coming through who it hasn’t had to pay for and who have been developed by the club, with the club’s vision and culture.”