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The dedicated Journey from U13 to First Team

Osborn & Smith become the most recent academy students to complete our successful football pathway from U13 to First Team at Needham Market FC.

Clayton Osborn & Ben Smith join the small list of players in the club's history who have completed the whole journey from the bottom of the youth system at U13 level to making their first team debut. They join Dimitri Gayle and Ivan Sanchez - who are the only other two players to ever complete this achievement at the club since the youth system was introduced in 2017.

Our mission has always been to provide aspiring footballers with the tools they need to thrive both on and off the pitch. Our commitment to excellence, elite coaching, and a nurturing environment have paved the way for these young athletes to achieve their dreams of playing at first-team level.

This achievement reaffirms the success of our proven pathway to first-team football. We take immense pride in seeing our academy players grow, develop, and ultimately appear in our senior team.

James Mant, Academy Head Coach & Head of Youth Development said: "We are really pleased for Clayton and Ben that they have been given the opportunity to make their first team debut. They are now some of the first players in the club's history to fulfil the whole journey from the start of our youth pathway - right to the top.

“Both players have fantastic attitudes towards learning and have been so committed to the club right from the age of 12 years old. To see them be given the opportunity to step out onto the first team pitch and get a taste of first team football for the first time is so rewarding; especially for all the youth staff and volunteers who have worked with them over the last six seasons."

James confirmed that although they have made debuts into the first team, both players will continue to play within the clubs U23’s to further their development.

He continued: "They still have a lot of work to do in the U23's if they want to get into the first team on a regular basis. However, this does show that opportunities are given to players who demonstrate a commitment to the club; its pathway; and values. Hopefully this achievement gives everyone within our youth system a renewed belief that they can make the same steps as Clayton and Ben. The journey into first team is very real and we are really proud to be able to offer such a proven pathway for local players."

For more information on our youth system and the academy - please email


Start your academy journey this September

We provide an elite football excellence and education programme aimed at 16-19 year olds with a passion for sport.

We combine academics in partnership with SCL Education and football provision to provide students with an excellent steppingstone to pursue a career in sport, football, sports coaching, physical education, physiotherapy or sports development.

Click the button below to learn more about our programme.


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