PONTEFRACT Collieries have announced the appointment of former Barnsley, Bradford City and Sheffield Wednesday player Paul Heckingbottom as the director of their elite academy for 16-18-year-olds.
Heckingbottom will work closely with Colls’ first team manager Brendon Ormsby, who is delighted to welcome the former Manchester United trainee to the club.
“We were looking for a top coach to head up our academy,” explained the Ponte gaffer.
“And it was essential that we found somebody with a positive, professional approach to the development of young footballers.
“We were blessed by being able to choose from a shortlist of outstanding candidates. Paul is right out of the top drawer. I am really looking forward to working with him and to reaping the fruits of his efforts as youngsters start coming through to the Colls’ first team.”
According to Pontefract Chairman Guy Nottingham, the appointment of Heckingbottom will herald a new age of opportunity for young footballers in the area.
“Our aim for the academy is to give the most talented 16-18 year olds in the area the best possible support, coaching and all-round guidance to help them make the most of their footballing abilities,” explained Nottingham.
“The measure of success will be how many players can be developed for the Colls first team - and how many are progressed into professional football. Getting the right person in to head up the academy was the most important step towards achieving this and I don’t believe we could have found anybody better than Paul Heckingbottom for this role.”
Heckingbottom explained his delight at being appointed to the club: “Player development is something that I really enjoy, and to be asked by Pontefract to help them establish an academy, to hopefully feed their first team and beyond, is definitely something that I am looking forward to.
“It’s an area in which I feel I can really make a difference. After speaking to Guy and Brendon it is clear that they have a very strong idea of what they want to achieve and that can only benefit any young players who sign for Pontefract.”
Heckingbottom played almost 400 games during a long professional career, having started under the legendary Eric Harrison at Manchester United where he played in the same youth team with Phil Neville. Following his time at United, Heckingbottom commenced a professional career that saw him play over 100 games for Darlington before moving back to his native Yorkshire, where he found his greatest successes to date. While at Bradford City, he was named the club’s player of the year in 2004 before helping Sheffield Wednesday to promotion to the Championship via the play-offs.
He then moved to hometown club Barnsley, who he had supported as a boy, helping the Tykes to play-off success the following season, scoring in the penalty shoot-out at Wembley.
Despite his success on the field, Heckingbottom derives an even greater enjoyment from helping young players achieve their potential.
He added: “I get as great a buzz from helping youngsters improve than I did out of anything achieved on the field.”
It is this desire to shape the careers of young players that has led Heckingbottom into building a successful coaching career, taking his professional coaching qualifications and working in the Barnsley Academy prior to joining Ponte.
The first item in Heckingbottom’s in-tray is to put together his squad of players. As well as cherry-picking from talent already at the club and from outside the Colls, talented youngsters are being invited to take part in trials. Any interested young players should contact the club on firstname.lastname@example.org