STOURBRIDGE FC have joined forces with West Midlands Regional League Division One side Team Dudley FC as part of a revamped player progression and pathway plan.

Team Dudley are a football club within the environment of Dudley College with their home matches played on the 3G pitch at Priory Road, Dudley, where facilities have recently been further improved to include a new stand.

They will now fundamentally become a Stourbridge FC development under-23s side with opportunities to play and be coached within a structured environment to aid teenage players leaving junior and youth age-group football behind them and taking their first steps into senior men’s football.

Stourbridge FC have enjoyed a working joint-partnership with Dudley College for the past two years with the establishment of a Football Academy for school leavers wanting to combine professional football training with studying for a diploma at the college.

Meetings have taken place this summer involving Stourbridge FC directors, the new first team management of Ian Long and Richard Colwell, Head of Youth and Academy and youth team boss Richard Forsyth and Team Dudley Sports Development Manager Simon King and team manager Lee Mills, who is also in charge of the academy team that competes in the National League under 19s Alliance on Wednesday afternoons.

Glassboys chairman Andy Pountney said: “In the past few years a lot of thought has gone in to setting up the development centre with our junior, youth and academy teams and in addition our programme for girls and ladies football is coming together nicely, but the one thing we felt we needed to review, particularly with the academy in full operation now, was providing more opportunities to play at step seven of the non-league pyramid and remain within the Stourbridge system for those players getting too old for youth and academy football.

"It will help them to bridge the gap to the first team, particularly as players develop at different rates and ages and some find that initial step into higher grade adult football harder than others. These players will then find the appropriate level for their talents. We hope this will help that process and we’ll continue to monitor how it’s working.”

Last season’s academy captain Dan Hadley, who recently successfully graduated from the college, is currently training with Ian Long’s first team squad, along with goalkeeper Tom Kirkpatrick, who is working alongside the likes of James Wren and Charlie Price with goalkeeping coach Chris Walwyn, while Hayden Reeves from last season’s youth team is another being assessed in pre-season by the first team management.

Others from last season’s academy and youth teams will form the core of this season’s Team Dudley side with Dan Harvey, James Fletcher, Callum Swain, Don Egbon, Carrick Chaney, Peter Hawk and Callum Phipps all set to be involved.

Team Dudley will also be looking at ways to attract Stourbridge supporters to attend their games and watch the progress of these young players during the coming season when the first team are away.

A further announcement will be made shortly regarding the plans for the club’s youth and academy age players this season with the size of the academy continuing to grow and flourish.