Two Preston’s Centre of Sporting Excellence teams have won titles in the EFL Community and Education Football Alliance League for the 2020/21 season.
Learners enrolled on Diploma in Sport courses with Preston’s Centre of Sporting Excellence – an innovative education partnership between Preston North End Community and Education Trust and Preston’s College – represent both organisations by playing in EFL CEFA weekly fixtures against other club community organisations.
One of the several men’s teams who play under the partnership banner collected the North West One trophy, while the Centre of Sporting Excellence’s women’s team won the North Central Women’s title.
The successful men’s team play against local rivals such as Blackburn Rovers, Burnley and Blackpool in their division, while the women’s team count the likes of Manchester City, Sheffield United and Derby County among their league opponents.
PNECET Education Tutor Zach Clark said: “We have a policy in place for learners, where if you don’t do the work, you don’t play.
“This is their reward for all the effort they’ve put in in the classroom – meeting deadlines, getting decent grades – then they’re able to get on the pitch.
“We have had limited training, a stop-start season. We had only played one or two league games before Christmas. Credit to the EFL for getting the league back up and running; it has been massive for the motivation of our learners.
“The amount of games we have got in for our learners – for our men’s A, B and C teams and women’s team – has been brilliant. Getting points on the board and games under our belt has ultimately won us the leagues. We can’t credit the learners enough for that.”
Winning men’s captain Jack Paynter has enjoyed the balance of classroom learning and the opportunity to train and play as part of the Diploma in Sport qualification.
Jack said: “It’s worked well, the theory side of things, playing football, and having a balance during the week – two days’ theory, two days’ football. It makes you want to work because you have to get your work done to be able to train and play.
“Throughout the course of the season, you’ve got [Education Tutors] Zach and Stew [Clitheroe] coaching you, telling you what you need to do better and how to improve.
“The result is what we wanted, everyone has worked hard for this moment, so it feels good.”
Women’s team captain Jenna Salthouse said playing in the EFL CEFA league has given her the opportunity to put her learning into practise on the pitch.
Jenna said: “I think I have really benefitted from learning off the pitch and then applying that on the pitch.
“As a player, I’ve become much more confident – I’ve become a leader and I think I’ve become a good role model.”
On the title success, she added: “We put a lot of hard work into it, it has been a tough year, but it feels nice to get the reward. I think we deserve it as a team, we’ve worked hard and we’ve worked well, and it feels nice to finish on a high.”
Meanwhile, EFL Fixtures Administrator Hasnain Mohammed commented on the origin of the EFL CEFA league and how it is giving young people across the country the chance to play under the banner of a professional club.
He said: “Primarily, the league was set-up for Club Community Organisations and those students and colleges involved within these organisations to be given a professional club to play under.The main focus is education alongside playing football; this league was set-up for community trusts.
“Massive credit to PNE for completing as many fixtures as possible and getting past the line in this really difficult season when it has been on and off. We have all had difficult times throughout this season, however, this is one of the positives that we can take through and definitely a massive positive for them going into next season.”
Preston’s College Principal and Chief Executive Louise Doswell said: “I am extremely proud of all the young women and men who have been involved in winning the EFL league titles.
“Their achievement has come from working hard in both their academic studies and skills training sessions. Being part of the Centre of Sporting Excellence programme enables young people to gain extended life skills which will be valuable in assisting them to progress in their chosen careers.”
School leavers can study a Diploma in Sport and play in the EFL CEFA league alongside their studies by enrolling at Preston’s Centre of Sporting Excellence.