IDA reps run the rule over local footballing talent
Two representatives from Independent Development Academy of Reading, England were in Bermuda last week looking for new soccer talent for their Academy and to strengthen their partnership with Bermuda football.
IDA are partnering with Warwick Archers to send three IDA Bermuda teams to the Super Cup in Ireland in July.
Ross Weatherstone, the IDA UK general manager, and chief recruitment officer, Ben Poulton, watched the Bermuda Under-23s during an inter-squad match on Thursday evening before Weatherstone left at half-time to go to the nearby National Sports Centre north field to watch Kyle Lightbourne put his team through a similar drill.
Approximately 12 Bermudians, among them Razir Smith-Jones, Reece Jones, Ryan Lopes and Isaiah Blankendal, attend the reputable school where Dashun Cooper is now on the staff as a goalkeeper coach.
“The purpose of the visit is to understand how the developmental part works for the BFA for U-17s, 18s through to U-23s, and also getting an eye on the national team,” explained Weatherstone, a former professional player for Oxford United, Boston United, Nuneaton Borough FC, Farnborough Town and Stevenage Borough.
“We currently have a dozen Bermudians at the Academy right now so it is important for me to understand where they developed the game, understood the game and to develop a pathway for future talent. It’s a talent ID improvement visit.”
Weatherstone and Poulton watched from the BFA balcony as the under-23s battled it out in a competitive inter-squad game below.
“Ben is one of my recruitment guys and he’ll gather all the information required and hopefully there will be some further conversations with some other Bermudians,” Weatherstone revealed.
“Within the Academy we have a pathway where we are able to provide U-18, U-19s, U-21, and U23s with a semi-professional level which is exciting. Some standouts for us this year within the Academy have been Richard Jones Jr, who is training with the national team right now, as is Razir Smith-Jones, who has done very well.
“In the UK right now are Ryan Lopes and Isaiah Blankendal who have done fantastic stuff academically as well as on the field, which excites me to see what talent is here on the island,” Weatherstone added.
“Coach Cooper came in last year and has been sensational. It excites me more to come here, now that Covid has allowed for more trips. I plan to be out here for another couple of visits in the next three months. This is my first time here, delayed by three years!
“We’ve been here since [last] Tuesday and got to see practice, and it’s good to understand the tactical and technical sides, and today it is good to see them in a game before I head over and catch up with Kyle [Lightbourne] and his team.”
Weatherstone left on the weekend while Poulton stayed on for a few more days looking at another area of the game.
“One of the other areas we’re looking to evolve and develop is the female game,” Weatherstone revealed.
“The game in the UK right now is growing heavily and if there is any way we can develop more pathways for the girls, along with education, then it is important for people to know there are opportunities for players here on the island.”
Getting trials with professional clubs is also something the Academy does for its most promising players.
“Our aim is to provide a platform for these boys to go on and play at the highest level they can,” he said.
“A lot of the boys study A-levels, then doing bachelor degrees in Business, sports science and sports coaching, so they have something to fall back on if the football doesn’t go where it needs to go.
“Just before I flew out we took everybody to Wembley, we had a great tour and saw England play early in the year. We have good connections, my brother [Simon Weatherstone] is first team coach at Newcastle United.”
For more information on International Development Academy, visit www.internationalda.com