Bradford (Park Avenue) links academy accent to younger fan base

BRADFORD (Park Avenue) owner Gareth Roberts insists their fanbase is on the right path to rejuvenation and says the club’s dedication to academy football and youth teams is contributing to this.

The National League North side have been criticized in the past for not focusing on the next generation, but Roberts believes the club are correcting that.

Speaking to the T&A in an interview about whether the club can attract new supporters, he said: “The way to do that is to build up our junior section. We now have four professional coaches there, more than some professional clubs do.

“This area is developing very quickly and that’s because we have a 3G pitch that the first team are playing on, and it’s attractive for the youngsters to come and play on the same pitch as the big guys.

“It serves all the kids who are in other clubs, they come and benefit from professional coaches and their sessions.

“We want to build this big fan base (from this) and eventually we’ll see a new generation of Avenue fans.”

He added: “We have high hopes for the academy, to get to the point where we have real quality in there.

“We have improved considerably on this front, but there is still room to grow.

“We’d like to see some of our young players on the team on a regular basis, which will help us, and we’re bringing in youngsters from other programs who haven’t quite made it, and they just need a bit more coaching and playing time.

“They have a taste of men’s football and we can hopefully attract them in the coming season as well.”

Expanding on the club’s new features and focus on young people, Roberts said: “We’ve got the new hospitality block in place, which is finally opening now about a year late, which also has new changing rooms. for juniors.

“We are also seeing real participation, with many people going to the field every day.

“We now have three women’s teams, with Bradford City Ladies here also playing Horsfall. These links with other clubs are also developing.

“We see a lot of other clubs renting space on the pitch, including Bradford City Juniors.

“Our own academy has grown to 50 students and it will be over 80 next year.

“We have transformed what was a problem for the city of Bradford into a true sporting hub for the future.

“We need more disabled facilities and more women’s toilets, but I was very happy to see a lot of families in the ground during our home game against Darlington last weekend. is what we want.

He also claimed: “We’re not going down the same path as, say, a city of Bradford, which is trying to be successful only on the pitch, we also want to be successful.”

And as for putting people on the ground, Roberts said, “We want to revamp our cafe, so we’re able to make our famous fries and serve them quickly.

“We have upgraded the bar, we have a beer garden and our new hospitality suite so if anyone wants to book an event call the stadium because we would like to set it up.

“It’s a more pleasant experience than before on the pitch. The weather is still Bradford’s, and if we could move the island a thousand miles further south, I think that would probably help.

Roberts even spoke of bringing famous local faces, like James Milner, to Horsfall to help promote the club, saying: “We have a Bradford Schools tournament coming up, and we would love to do some more, and have sponsors for those. tournaments.

“We would like some of these footballers to come and be a figurehead for us at these events.

“It would be great because people would love to meet them and kids could meet their heroes.

“People need to know about Avenue, there are people who live a mile away who don’t know the ground is there and what’s going on.

“What we need to try to do is more mailings, dropping things by people, and of course we would like more T&A articles about specific events.

“All this needs to be disseminated in the community. »

And on the composition of the first team, he added: “Mark Bower and Danny Boshell have done well to get us to where we are, and you just have to look at Guiseley.

“They have a decent setup, with good crowds and a niche of followers in their own city.

“But they don’t have those facilities like we have with 3G, and there’s not that focal point, because I think they could train in another city.

“We want Bradford guys to come from Bradford clubs, not just to bring in pros from all over the country.

“Someone like (Avenue veteran) Adam Nowakowski really represents the spirit of who we are.”