ALTRINCHAM have enhanced their reputation for forward thinking by expanding an already vibrant youth set-up and increasing the prospects of unearthing another Duncan Watmore.

Voted community club of the year at the Conference annual meeting, Alty are continuing to emerge as a focal point for the town by again embracing an innovative scheme to provide education and coaching for aspiring youngsters and also announcing an intention to field an under-21 team next season.

With Watmore earning himself a move to Sunderland, Rob Gilroy being named England Schools under-18 captain and the likes of Stephen Bullen appearing on the bench for the first team last season, Alty already have a youth system that's the envy of many non-League clubs.

George Heslop's youngsters ended the season with two trophies, after the under-17s won the Cheshire FA Youth Cup and the under-18s lifted the Manchester and District FA trophy with a goal from Gilroy in a 1-0 wIn over Stockport Vikings.

The accent will remain on finding and developing local talent, after the club confirmed that Moss Lane will again be the venue for the Football Scholarship and Education Programme, devised by Oldham-based company Interactive Sports.

“It's a great way to combine football and learning and is run by a guy called Ritchie Semple, who's not only a qualified lecturer but a UEFA qualified coach who used to play for Bangor City in the Welsh League,” said Alty's PR and promotions manager Pete Foster.

“The students have lectures in the sponsors' lounge overlooking the pitch and three coaching sessions each week, as well as playing weekly games as a course team.

“We basically act as hosts, but if any of the students show they are good enough, they get the chance to play for our youth team.

“Stephen Bullen, from last year's first intake, ended up on the bench for the first team, so that illustrates the benefits for the club. The course lasts two years, and we had about 20 students last year. We're expecting maybe double this September.”

With Alty set to enter a team in the newly-formed Cheshire FA under-21 League, chairman Grahame Rowley said: 'The progress the football club has made over the past few years, with our junior and youth team sections, has been phenomenal, and the products of this system are now coming to fruition. The introduction of the under-21 side will further enhance the opportunities for local talent to progress up the footballing ladder.”

Anyone interested in the football and education scheme should call Steve Mort, programme director, on 07540 418599 or email