Hartlepool United's youth scholarship programme scrapped in place of unpaid college team

After months of silence, players and parents have finally received some clarity over the future of Hartlepool United’s youth set-up.

Sunday, 9th August 2020, 9:00 am
Hartlepool scholars Joe Grey (top left), Coleby Shepherd (top right), Aaron Willoughby (bottom left) and lead youth phase coach Ian McGuckin (bottom right).

On Monday, August 3, Pools’ youth-team players were informed that the club's scholarship programme in partnership with East Durham College has been scrapped in place of an unpaid football programme at Hartlepool College.

Many players and parents are believed to be outraged by the decision, which came after months of no contact from Pools (whose entire staff had been furloughed) while the youngsters’ futures hung in the balance.

The plans are yet to be publically announced by the club, who have been approached by The Mail for comment.

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Joe Grey has been training with the first team after being offered a pro deal.

Around 10 players who joined the programme last summer still had a year left on their scholarship in which they were paid £100 per week by the club.

Those players will now have their scholarships terminated unless they agree to become unpaid while also switching their education to Hartlepool College.

As a result, most of Pools’ promising youth players are likely to leave with one starlet, Jack Leonard, already on trial at Northern Premier side Morpeth Town.

Northern League teams will now be seen as a more attractive option to young footballers as they allow them to still earn money through playing.

But one exception is 17-year-old forward Joe Grey, who has been training with Pools first team after being the only scholar to be offered a professional contract at the club.

Grey is yet to sign the pro-deal to stay at Pools and has received interest from elsewhere, meaning the club would be eligible for compensation should he sign for someone else.

The Mail understands that other players will be seeking legal advice due to the club allegedly being in breach of contract after agreeing a two-year paid scholarship with the players and failing to provide it.

Fears and uncertainty regarding Pools’ youth-team have been lingering throughout the summer due to the drastic budget cuts that have been taking place at the club following the shut down of the 2019-20 season.

Back in June, manager Dave Challinor hinted that the programme would no longer be paying players which has since came to fruition.

“There will be changes with the youth set-up,” he admitted to the Mail earlier in the summer.

“There’s been lots of money invested because it’s remained a paid programme where the scholars are paid.

“That will probably change as we look at a different format but it still doesn’t hide away from the fact we’re looking to produce players and get them into the first team from that.”

The changes to the youth set-up will significantly impact Hartlepool’s ability to attract players who have the potential to progress into the first team in years to come.

But the reality is the club can no longer afford to pay 15 to 20 youth players £100 a week. The decision has been handled poorly, is wholly unfair on the players and may be short-sighted – but it will ultimately save the club tens of thousands of pounds over the season.

And at the moment, Pools need every penny they can get.

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