Pre-Academy (7-16)

The pre-academy at Dartford FC forms part of our player pathway to first team football at the club. We aim to create a learning environment where talented young players, many of whom have been at professional clubs, can continue to progress. Whilst winning is important, our emphasis focuses on the way we play. Therefore, developing players who have tactical as well as technical skill is delivered throughout the years through a well-balanced learning syllabus.

Our squads start at u7 (school year 2) and at u16s (school year 11), trial for our full academy if they have achieved the standards required. At an appropriate point, players are signed exclusively to the pre-academy squads, until then they can play for their local club teams. The squads play in the Elite Development Programme (EDP) against professional and semi-professional advanced player centres. They also play against professional club academy squads.

The U12s – U16s are members of the Junior Premier League. The pre-academy is financially supported through a parental contributory model, managed by the Dartford FC Youth Development Centre Community Interest Company. The Foundation phase squads pay £30 and the Development phase squads pay £50 per month. The payments pay for everything except for playing kit and accessories. Foundation squad players are expected to be coached for 1.5 hours per week and the Development phase players for 3 hours per week. They are coached by minimum FA Level 2, YCA Module 2 coaches, or coaches who are working towards that minimum standard.

The pre-academy is divided into two phases for players to learn and develop in the way that our clubs wants them to. We feel that this meets the requirements of the FA strategy, ‘The Future Game’ and mirrors the approach taken in in the professional academy environments through the Elite Player Performance Plan.


Foundation Phase

This phase focuses on the development of our u8s – u11. At these ages we focus on Agility, Balance & Coordination, the ABCs. Fun and technique are paramount. Whilst it is serious stuff, we like the players to learn and develop in a more ‘discovered learning’ environment, so developing an inquiring mind and approach is key. A mild sense of self-discipline will be instilled as well.

Lead Recruitment Officer: John O’Sullivan
Email: to enquire about joining a Foundation Squad


Teams & Coaches: Lead Foundation Phase Coach – Zach Bowden

Foundation Squad Coaches

U6’s   –   Warren Bull

U7’s   –   Dan Drosario

U8’s   –   Marc Sandell

U9’s   –   Elliot Leverson

U10’s   –  John Whitty

U11’s   –   Liam Rosenfield


Development Phase

This phase focuses on the development of our U12’s – U16’s. Whilst technical ability is still key in terms of the player development process, at these ages players start to learn about the bigger game. Roles, responsibilities and tactical application on the field come above winning. A winning mentality is strongly encouraged, but not at the cost of losing sight of playing our kind of football. Footballers for all scenarios during in a game, is what we need. To be able to read a game and know what is required as: an individual; part of a function; and, as a squad as a whole, whilst being strongly disciplined….will see a player through to our Academy!

Lead Recruitment Officer: John O’Sullivan
Email: to enquire about joining a Development Squad

Teams & Coaches: Lead Development Phase Coach – Darren Corley

Development Squad Coaches

U12’s   –   Zack Hamid and Nick Farrell

U13’s   –   Russ Searle and Lee Smith

U14’s   –   Zack Bowden and John Whitty

U15’s   –   Manraj Dhesi and Dave Hill

U16’s   –   Darren Corley and Jules Dias Alberto

Goalkeeper coaches   –   Warren Bull and James Town


Elite Development Programme

We have joined a programme involving professional and semi-professional club advanced and development centres. Primarily, this involves playing clubs in tri-tournaments during school holidays. The clubs involved are: Arsenal, Brighton, MK Dons, Wycombe Wanderers, Walsall, Northampton, Histon, Oxford, Brentford and Luton.
In addition to the Elite Development Programme, we play against: Millwall, Gillingham, QPR, Fulham, West Ham, West Brom, Woking, Basingstoke, leyton Orient and Bournemouth. In the main, these fixtures involve our Development Phase (u12s – u16s) squads.

The club is keen to support local football in the Kent County as well. Our Development Phase squads continue to support the local county cup competitions. In addition, we are working with other clubs, the FA and local /national youth leagues, in order to create a strategic approach to delivering a programme just outside of the professional game.