Talented Aylsham footballer Ben Bates has just signed for the Norwich City FC Academy.
From next season eight-year-old Ben will be training twice a week after school with the academy’s under-nines’ squad.
And he’ll be playing a fixture every Sunday which will involve travelling to top clubs including Liverpool and Manchester City and further afield, in Europe.
Ben has been playing for Aylsham FC since he was five when he was spotted by a scout from now-Premier League Norwich and signed to the club’s pre-academy, an experience which has already taken him to matches against teams including Watford, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.
As an academy member Ben’s no longer allowed to play for Aylsham where his dad, Gus, is chairman of youth football. But he plans to cheer on his old team mates at their Saturday games.
Ben is one of 12 young footballers from across Norfolk who have just been signed to the academy.
He follows in the boot steps of another Aylsham FC player, Aylsham High student Sam Blair who will be signing a two-year paid scholarship contract on July 1 in the hope of being offered a professional contract.
Sam has already represented the Norwich City under-23 team this season alongside the likes of Grant Hanley and Nelson Oliviera.
The academy takes the cream of the county’s young players and helps them reach their full potential, with the prospect of a career in professional football for the very best.
But Gus said assessment of the young players’ was continual and could be ruthless, and each faced the possibility that they could be thrown out at any time.
“Ben’s got his feet firmly on the ground,” he said. “Whatever happens, this will have been a great experience for him.”
WORDS: JUST REGIONAL
DOTTED LINE: Ben Bates signing for the Norwich City FC Academy, with the club’s Scott Smith