Wednesday 06th July 2005

Folkestone have faith in home grown talent


Striker James Dryden is not the only talented youngster coming through the ranks of Ryman Premier League side Folkestone Invicta, writes Stephen McCartney.

The 25-year-old netted 29 goals for Neil Cugley's side last season, but despite making his first team debut at the age of nineteen, the striker's loyalty to the club - he joined at the age of 15 - will be rewarded with a testimonial against neighbours Dover Athletic, at the Buzzlines Stadium, Cheriton Road, Folkestone on Tuesday 9th August.

But Dryden - the club's record goalscorer and appearance holder - is not the only home grown youngster plying his trade in Folkestone's first team.

The longest serving youth section produced player is Michael Everitt, who has been with the club man and boy for 13 years, apart from a short loan spell with Sittingbourne, where he was captain.

And with Cugley arranging nine pre-season friendlies, starting with Gravesend & Northfleet's visit on Saturday 16th July, the club's talented youngsters will be given a chance to impress and break through into the first team squad.

In an EXCLUSIVE interview with www.kentishfootball.co.uk Paul Everitt, the club's youth secretary, said: "We have taken on a large number of friendlies, some people say too many, but it means they can get experience.

"Hopefully a number will step up by the end of the season and be regular first team squad members, competing for places in our largest and strongest ever squad at the start of a season."

Everitt, however, feels it's important to give local youngsters the chance to develop within the club.

"It is hoped to develop the links with schools and other groups working with children and youth people in the town," he said.

"There is a need for more activities for them and the rise in obesity amongst the young today.

"We want to offer a chance for more of them to gain an enjoyment in football that they hopefully take into their adult life.

"We also hope to have more football fun sessions and coaching workshops.

"The interest is there and the cost can be met.

"Sadly one of the permanent worries is the cost of youth and kids football.

"While the youth section received support from the club such as use of the stadium for some under 18 games and cup games it has to raise its own funds.

"As a club money is always tight.  Last year it cost the youth section £20,000, which has to be raised through subs, signing on fees and sponsorship.

"This covers pitch hire, kit, referee and other officials and sundry costs.

"Sadly before the start of last year we had to cancel three teams due to the rising cost of pitches."

And nine local youngsters have, or should be, knocking on Cugley's door for a place in the first team squad.

They are eighteen-year-olds, James Everitt, Joe Neilson (19 in August), Kieran Mann, Will Dunlop, Simon Rainbow and Ben Sly and 17-year-old strikers, Ollie Waters and Luke Coleman.

Everitt added: "There are a number of other players who played in the under 18 South team last year who are now old for the age group but will hopefully be continuing with the reserves to give them the opportunity to develop and maybe progress to the first team."

And Everitt admits producing home grown talent is important.

"The benefit to the club is three fold," he said.

"Firstly it encourages local support, rooting the club in the community.

"It is part of and providing a service for young people in that community.

"Secondly, when there are local derbies, like last season with Dover Athletic, the players know and share the importance to the fans of those games and thirdly it saves the cost of bringing in players to the club."

Everitt, however, demands that the  local council improve their facilities.

"Money is an issue.  Sadly it is expensive to hire the pitches and some of the council changing facilities leave a lot to be desired.

"But children and young people are not a high enough priority when it comes to spending by councils in facilities or support costs."

And Everitt paid tribute to the many people involved with youth football at Folkestone Invicta.

The youth section has a youth development officer with Darren Beale taking over from Micky Dix.

"The youth section deals with young people aged 5 to 18 with 20 teams and 40 volunteer managers and coaches, as well as the parents who act as taxi drivers, wash kit, prepare refreshments, run the line, complete the administration and paperwork.

"We are committed that coaches undergo FA coaching courses and we do checks on their background, promoting the well being of the children and young people."

Some of these adults help for a few years while their children are involved - some become fixtures like the youth secretary, Paul Everitt, who as well as making sure paperwork is done, has managed to father two first team players, James and Michael.

To sponsor Folkestone's youth sides, email Paul Everitt:


Jim Dryden

Folkestone Invicta's record breaking striker
James Dryden