Ex-PNE star helps kids start to shine

Matt Hill and PNE winger Chris Humphrey (right) who was visiting the Pro 4 academy in Preston

Matt Hill and PNE winger Chris Humphrey (right) who was visiting the Pro 4 academy in Preston

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A Preston-based football academy has been a big success in its first 18 months.

Former PNE left-back Matt Hill set up 4 Pro in 2014, the academy providing coaching and sports science support to youngsters not attached to professional clubs.

They train weekly at Corpus Christi RC School in Fulwood and play regular games against football club’s academy and development centre teams.

A number of the players have gone on to sign for clubs or have had trials.

Hill, who currently plays for Tranmere, told the Evening Post: “We have got more than 100 lads who train with us.

“We coach them to a high standard and regularly play matches against sides from PNE, Bolton, Blackpool and Accrington .

“That gives them a good understanding of the level they need to reach if they are to get taken on by an academy.

“We don’t guarantee to turn them into professional footballers but we will make them better players.

“What has been really good is seeing some of the lads go on to sign for academies. My son James has signed for Bolton, while we have seen lads go to Fleetwood and Blackpool.

“We had have lads go on trial to Preston, Blackburn and Accrington.”

The Pro 4 academy has had visits in recent months from PNE winger Chris Humphrey, Manchester United keeper Sam Johnstone who was on loan at Preston, and Blackpool manager Neil McDonald.

Ex-North End No.1 David Lucas, now goalkeeper coach at Fleetwood, trains the keepers.

Said Hill: “We have added a physio, Dave Rhodes, to our set-up this season.

“We have an arrangement with UCLan too, with student physios coming in to treat injuries.

“Another initiative has been to introduce futsal for players aged six to nine.

“That is played in the sports hall at Corpus Christi on a Monday night.

“The academy is growing well, the nice thing being that word of mouth has done that, we have a good reputation.”