Dean Austin passionate and excited about bringing elite academy to St Albans City
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
Dean Austin says St Albans needs something “more elite” and is confident the new St Albans City Football Club academy can achieve those goals
The former Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace defender, who began his career at Clarence Park, has been given the task of creating an academy that will allow talented young players to progress to the club’s first team.
There have already been some from the inaugural U16 and U18 teams that have featured for City during pre-season and Austin says they are hopefully just the first.
“When you are talking about academies, you’re talking about a more elite environment,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to get.
“I’ve lived in this city for 32 years and this is a club that gave me an opportunity when I thought my football career was over.
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“But this city needs something a little bit juicier, a little bit more elite.
“That’s not to take away from the good work that the grassroots clubs do around here but this is St Albans City, this is the biggest non-league club in Hertfordshire.
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“There are a lot of talented footballers in St Albans and the surrounding area and we need to create a pathway for those to come through to the first-team.
“The more I say and I more I say what I want to do, I put massive pressure on myself.
“I’m not saying we’re going to turn St Albans City academy into Barcelona inside three years as it is not going to happen.
“But I can get players from our academy to our first-team inside three years. It will be tough but very much achievable.”
The plans are all centred on the players’ development rather than results and Austin wants to create a culture and a place where the youngsters can thrive.
They will be using the facilities at Oaklands College and the ideal scenario is they recruit from St Albans and surrounding areas.
He said: “We want to create a standard and an environment so that when kids turn up, they know what they need to do.
“That’s what we’ve got with the two teams. They believe in the values of the club and in the values of the academy.
“If you want to build what we want then you need a cuture and an environment where the kids can flourish.
“I’m not going to say we won’t take a player from Milton Keynes or Bedford or Walthamstow if they are an unbelievable player.
“We would be stupid to do that if we feel they’d be good for the club but I would expect 85 to 90 per cent of the kids would be coming from St Albans and the surrounding area.
“What we want to do is create a pathway for kids who aspire to play for St Albans City and beyond.”
The academy has been in the minds of co-owners and Austin for around five years since an initial conversation and the 50-year-old has experience of doing this, having done the same with Southend United,
And while the plans for the entirely self-funded enterprise have been affected by COVID-19, he admits sometimes two steps back is what is needed to move forward.
He said: “I’ve put a lot of the infrastructure together but that has had to change because of COVID. We had a couple of other things that were going to run alongside to help us fund it.
“This has got to be self-funded. This is not a situation where the owners can put their hands in their pockets.
“The model we have got to get has got to be sustainable.
“We have raised a fair amount of money this year but we have had to take two or three steps back and realign the first year.
“I’ve offered to do this on a voluntary basis. I’m not receiving any payment because it something I’m passionate about.
“There’s a lot going on at the minute and a lot of work going into it but if I wasn’t excited about it, then I wouldn’t be doing it.”