FORMER Football League player and manager Dave Penney is aiming to help local youngsters develop into possible professional players by setting up a new academy based at Knottingley.
The Dave Penney Football Academy will begin at the De Lacy Academy – formerly Knottingley High School – tonight (Thursday) with classes for boys and girls aged from five up to 12.
The coaching marks a return to this area for 47-year-old Castleford lad Penney, who started out his football career with Fryston and Pontefract Collieries before going on to make more than 400 appearances for Football League sides Derby County, Oxford United, Swansea City, Cardiff City and Doncaster Rovers, scoring 76 goals.
While at Doncaster he became the manager and proved one of the most successful in the club’s history, guiding them to promotion back into the Football League and then the Division Three title the following year as well as overseeing famous cup victories over Manchester City and Aston Villa.
After leaving Rovers in 2006, having taken them to their highest league finish for 50 years at the time, Penney managed Darlington, Oldham Athletic and Bristol Rovers, but he now wants to put that football expertise to good use by making a success of his new youngsters coaching venture.
He told the Express: “I’m a Cas lad who came through Park Middle and Castleford High School and local football teams. I played for Fryston when they had a decent senior team and then I played for Pontefract Collieries.
“When I was 21 I got the chance to play professional football and went to Derby County from Ponte and went on to have a decent career in football, going on to be a player and coach.
“Growing up in this area where it’s obviously mad rugby I never got a chance to be coached so I’m offering an opportunity for kids today to get some proper football coaching.
“From a young age with me it was just turn up and play and it took me until I was 21 to get into professional football. I think if I’d have been coached a little bit earlier I might have got in earlier and might have been a better player and had a better playing career if you like.
“When I was at school I got very little chance to play football. We all had to play rugby, Colin Maskill was in my class, and it was very rugby dominated.
“I’ve got the highest qualifications you can get, my UEFA pro licence, which had five or six years, and it will be good to get some new kids in and to try to get football going in this area as well as rugby.
“For the Doncaster area I’m starting an academy at the Keepmoat Stadium, but for youngsters round here I’m starting at the De Lacy Academy, where they’ve got decent facilities.
“It’s for boys and girls – five to eight-year-olds is 6 to 7pm then nine to 12-year-olds 7 to 8pm. Anybody can come and join in, mainly to enjoy it, but hopefully they’ll learn something as well.
“I’ll be doing the coaching, but depending on numbers I will be having other qualified coaches there to help - they are all CRB checked and first aid trained and all that kind of stuff you need to put a course on like this.”
Penney outlined the aims of his academy:
“Basically it will be fun to start off with and then we’ll quickly assess them in different age groups to see where they’re at and see how far we can push them on.
“It might be very basic stuff to start off with for the real youngsters and obviously making it fun and enjoyment with plenty of touches of the football and as the age groups get older then the more technical it can get and more in-depth. It’s still mainly for enjoyment of the game.
“The aim would be to find some players who can go on and play professionally. Hopefully there’s players out there who are perhaps not in the academy system of professional clubs, but if they are good enough then with the contacts I’ve got in the game I can feed them through and say to the youth coach at Doncaster or wherever ‘come and have a look at this kid, I think he’s got a chance’.
“It will be fantastic if we can get someone who’s not in the system into it and help them get into professional football.
“But first and foremost it’s going to be about fun. I’ve got kids that have grown up and sometimes I’m sick of seeing them behind a computer. This will get youngsters out, get a bit of fresh air and get a bit of fitness if you like and not become a couch potato sitting behind a computer desk playing games..
“It will be a bit of everything and we’ll try and educate on diet and fitness and all that kind of stuff as well.”
Penney is not ruling out a return to day to day involvement with a Football League club again, but is concentrating fully for now on the new academy venture.
He added: “I’m not looking to get back into club management if I can get this up and running. But you never say never.
“Obviously this is just starting, but we might expand it to more areas. I’m pretty open minded.
“My job description is football manager/coach so if anything comes available that interests me I would be interested, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
The Dave Penney Football Academy will run every Thursday from 6 to 8pm at the De Lacy Academy, Middle Lane, Knottingley, with all boys and girls aged from five to 12 welcome. Cost is £4 a child and for more details and how to join, email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 07873 643485.