A popular and successful football player has returned to a North East town to help launch a new football academy.

Former Middlesbrough and current Birmingham City defender, George Friend, attended has returned to the town to help launch the new Teesside University Football Academy.

He attended the launch alongside a host of industry professionals at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium on Tuesday, November 22.

The football academy is aimed at developing the next generation of men’s and women’s footballing talent in the region ultimately providing a path into semi-professional and professional football.

Teesside University students will be able to study in their preferred discipline, inside or outside of sport, while continuing to train and play at a high level in football.

The Northern Echo: George Friend Picture: TEESSIDE UNIVERSITYGeorge Friend Picture: TEESSIDE UNIVERSITY (Image: Picture: TEESSIDE UNIVERSITY)

Students will be given a “holistic car package” that includes 10 hours per week of football-related activity, including coaching, conditioning, analysis, recovery and medical support.

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The academy will also benefit from the university’s strong links with local clubs including Middlesbrough FC, Middlesbrough Women’s FC and Stockton Town.

Meanwhile, they will also have access to Teesside’s state-of-the-art facilities, including a hydrotherapy pool, 4G pitch and biomechanics and physiology labs.

Earlier this year, Mr Friend also launched the George Friend Scholarship at Teesside University, helping students from all backgrounds to access the performance sports programme and to pursue their passion for football alongside a university education.

Mr Friend said he was “looking forward to seeing how the players develop over the years ahead.”

He added: “I am extremely proud to support Teesside University’s Football Academy. The Academy will offer a fantastic opportunity for talented young athletes to develop their footballing skills while completing their degree.

“The North East has a huge amount of talent and it would be fantastic to see a greater pipeline of professional players coming from the Tees Valley as a result of this programme.

“With hard work and dedication, these young athletes could be equipped for promising careers in football – whether that’s on the pitch or in the back room.

“But, ultimately, whether it’s in professional football or not, I would love to see graduates finish university with the confidence to take on a significant role in their chosen industry.”

Professor Mark Simpson, pro vice-chancellor at Teesside University said: “George is a fantastic ambassador for our region, and we are thrilled to have his support as we launch this exciting new offer.

“The Teesside University Football Academy is a pivotal new programme for our region. It will provide future generations of talented students with access to exceptional support and facilities to develop their skills and equip them for their future careers. We are very much looking forward to seeing their success.”

The new Football Academy is open for applications for the 2023-24 academic year.

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