Our Academy’s ties to grassroots football continue to reap huge reward for the club and Teesside youngsters, thanks in no small part to the support of local organisations Boro Rangers and Boro Soccer Schools.
Boro’s Category One Academy has a reputation as one of the finest in the country, and that is owed to a wide network of clubs and contacts in the region, with both Boro Rangers and Boro Soccer Schools two who play a role in the conveyor belt of young talent which has gone on to represent our club as well as many others in the professional pyramid.
Boro Rangers was formed nearly two decades ago by Mark Curtis (pictured centre left), and owes its roots to Mark’s time coaching with our official charitable arm MFC Foundation. His first junior team was set up in 2003 after a request to fill a spot by legendary Boro goalkeeper Jim Platt, and the rest is history, Boro Rangers now fielding 75 teams across Under-7 to Under-16 age groups and senior level.
The Teesside Junior Football Alliance, or TJFA, is one of if not the most competitive and high-quality junior football environment of its kind in the country, and Boro Rangers thrive in it, with their teams set to play in cup finals in nine of ten age categories later this month. They invest in top quality coaching, including the likes of Paul Crager and Neil Maddison who have roles within the Academy, strengthening those important ties.
Boro Soccer Schools, meanwhile, was set up by Craig Archer (pictured centre right), and now focuses on younger age groups from as young as three years old, with children then celebrating a ‘graduation’ from that level to then go on and represent Boro Rangers.
Throughout their existence, both Boro Rangers and Boro Soccer Schools have contributed plenty of players to our Academy system, from the likes of Callum Johnson, who has gone on have a successful career elsewhere in the EFL, to current crop including Joe Gibson, Frankie Whelan, Jack Stott and AJ Bridge. Between the two, they contribute a considerable chunk of the talent signed on to Boro’s Academy, with the latest intake set to include as many as 70% from either a Boro Soccer Schools or Boro Rangers background, often both, adding to a total of more than 60 boys already filtered in from their system across three Academy phases.
The relationship works both ways, too, with players who may fall short of the high levels set by the Academy during their developing years encouraged to maintain progress and, crucially, enjoyment of football by continuing to play back with Boro Rangers. The senior sides at Boro Rangers have seen remarkable success in non-league, with their first team recently promoted to step six of the pyramid - incredibly, the first Middlesbrough team to compete in the Northern League since Boro.
Martin Carter (pictured far right), Boro’s Head of Academy Recruitment, is full of praise for both organisations. “One of the first things I did in this role was to establish links with Boro Rangers and Boro Soccer Schools, and I’ve got to say it is up there with the best decisions I’ve made.
“The key to the success is the quality of the relationship we have, and their desire to see young footballers achieve.
“We’re proud of the links we have with clubs across our local area, and the record we have in helping develop young players for a first team environment, hopefully at Boro but if not then elsewhere in the leagues.
“We’re incredibly grateful to Mark and Craig, who will gladly push their players to take their development to the next level within the Academy, even if to the detriment of their own teams - because they see that as just as big a success as we do.”