First published Friday 13 February 2015 inSportby Neil Bonnar

A NEWLY established under 17’s team have adopted a professional and innovative approach to youth football.

Bolton-based Britannia AFC play a year above their age-group; consult the services of a sport scientist and are making links with a number of non-league football clubs.

Currently mid-table in the Under-17s Tameside Football League, Britannia were formed in May 2014 when manager Neil Pickup brought together groups of players he had either coached, or coached against.

The nucleus of the team can be traced back to Ladybridge FC where Pickup coached the u13s and u14s; some of whom now play for Britannia at Eagley Sports Complex.

Pickup wanted his young charges to stretch themselves and accordingly entered the 15-16 year olds into an u17s league. His players have also been introduced to sport scientist Wayne Richardson whose former clients include Mario Balotelli.

Mr Richardson has given the youngsters individual screenings, identifying weaknesses for them to work on.

“It is all about creating a professional outlook,” said Pickup. “I want the lads to see that they can have a future in the game and so I’m trying to create an academy mindset.

“It doesn’t matter that they’re not yet at a club. My aim is to get half of these guys involved in semi or professional football.”

A major step towards achieving this end is securing links with clubs. Pickup has already established strong ties with FC United of Manchester and their academy manager Paul Bright. Formerly a Manchester United coach, Bright has taken Britannia training sessions and invited four players for trials with his club’s u18s scholars.

Pickup is hoping to form similar bonds with other clubs including Chorley and Stockport County.