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Ipswich Town's Alan Lee to front up Culford School's new football academy

It may be better known for rugby, tennis and golf, but Culford School are set to break new ground in September when they team up with Ipswich Town to offer a football programme to their students with an ex-international striker at the helm.

NEW BEGINNINGS: Alan Lee is to lead Culford School's first football academy programme (1971977)
NEW BEGINNINGS: Alan Lee is to lead Culford School's first football academy programme (1971977)

Alan Lee, who has been capped 10 times by the Republic of Ireland and made 481 Football League appearances, scoring 102 goals, will be teaching the new football programme that is now recruiting for its inaugural year.

Assistant head at Culford School, Dave Watkin, said it will offer something distinctive from the traditional football academy route, not limiting their academic ambitions while pursuing a potential football career.

He hopes it will build on the strength of the school’s existing sport-education programmes, with Culford having established itself as the top co-educational tennis school in the country, as named by the Lawn Tennis Association.

“We have been allowing pupils to combine their academic aspirations with their sporting ambitions for about 15 years now, in terms of tennis, golf and swimming here, and this is an addition to that portfolio of sport,” he explained.

“It is very much about children joining the school, who are academically ambitions, but then being able to combine those academic ambitions with a real top quality football programme.”

He said the top-class facilities at the school, including immaculate grass hockey pitches that will now be used for football alongside their gym and pool, would allow a more holistic approach than a traditional football academy.

He added: “Where this is different is that it puts equal weight on their academic development, alongside their football development. They won’t have to limit their academic aspirations to a B-TEC, for example. They will be able to do A-Levels.

“In some ways there are assets of the academy programme that we will be incorporating into what we are doing, but I think we are building on it. As the school is here, that gives you far greater flexibility and a far greater ability to combine their academic life with their football.”

Of the relationship with the county’s pro club, he said: “Ipswich Town have been fantastically supportive with what they are doing and they have identified Alan as the right man to lead and establish this programme and that is going to be hugely exciting. But we have got autonomy and control on the education and football we deliver to the pupils, and that is where I think we are distinctive and different to one or two other schools in the area.”

Lee, who lives local to Bury St Edmunds and has been managing Ipswich Town’s Under-18s side this season, said: “For me it was a really easy decision. Coming up the drive, meeting Dave and listening to his passion about it and seeing the facilities here just blew me away.

“As an opportunity for me, I just felt I couldn’t turn it down.”

He added: “I am really excited to be at the start of something special and to be able to play a part in building it up.

“I love working for Ipswich and I am not leaving Ipswich, this is very much a partnership. I will still be working with the youth team and the age teams and the strikers as I have been for the last couple of years.”

Lee expects to split his time evenly between the two.

• Anyone interested should contact the school’s admission office via 01284 385308.

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