Training the next Lionesses - two new North East female football academies to open due to rising popularity of women's game

The rising popularity of women’s football has inspired the launch of two new elite academies to hopefully find tomorrow’s World Cup stars.

Pupils get together after a training session at St Joseph's.
Pupils get together after a training session at St Joseph's.

St Joseph’s Catholic Academy, in Hebburn, and sister school St Bede’s Catholic Comprehensive School, in Peterlee, will both host academies run by football specialists Improtech Soccer from September.

Youngsters fortunate enough to obtain places will be hoping to emulate the success of current England Lionesses from the region such as captain Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Beth Mead and Lucy Bronze.

While pupils chosen from the schools will receive coaching as part of their curriculum, the academies will also hold sessions outside of school hours for girls educated elsewhere.

Victoria Chester, from St Bede's, in green, challenges Grace Chisholm and Hope Walton, from St Joesph's

Both academies will also be led by former top-flight footballers from the men’s game.

Former Wimbledon star Carlton Fairweather will be lead coach at St Joseph’s while ex-Sunderland striker Stephen Elliott will undertake a similar role at St Bede’s.

Steve Golightly, Improtech’s director of football education, said the academies were planned before the success of the England Lionesses in the current World Cup.

He said: “Our aim is to get girls joining the academies to join professional clubs at the end of five years with us and to raise the the standards of girls’ football in the North East as a whole.


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Pupils in a training session at St Joseph's Academy.

“A year ago we looked at the rise in the women’s game and thought there was a massive rise in its popularity.

“This has been helped by the World Cup gripping everyone’s attention.

“While the World Cup has generated more interest in the academies, there are still places available at both.”


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The headteacher of St Joseph’s, Peter Mitchell, speaking before England’s semi-final against America on Tuesday, said: “We’re all looking forward to the semi-final and it couldn’t have been better timed in terms of generating interest in the girls’ elite football academies.”

The girls enjoy Tuesday's training session.

Fran Craik, the headteacher at St Bede’s, added: “There are still places available at both schools, but we have seen greater interest over the course of the World Cup.”

Young girls wanting to join either academy must be starting Year 7 from this coming September.


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Mr Golightly can be contacted for more information at [email protected]