Ackworth School Football Academy

In partnership with Harrogate Town AFC

Ackworth School is proud to offer an elite football development programme in partnership with English Football League Two club Harrogate Town AFC, offering U19 and U16 pathways for boys, with a new U16 girls pathway launching in September 2024.

Many players will choose to join the Academy alongside their Sixth Form studies. Two study routes are available: traditional A-Levels, or the BTEC Extended National Diploma in Sport (equivalent to three A-Levels) for those wanting a more vocational education. Those pupils joining the Academy in years below the Sixth Form must take the required academic course appropriate to their age and ability and involve themselves in the school’s co-curricular programme.

Places in the Academy are limited and preference given to students already enrolled at Ackworth School. Football Academy scholarships are available for those who meet the required standard.

U19 Football
John McDermott

Director of Football – John McDermott

John is a very experienced and successful football coach and professional footballer who most recently was assistant manager at National League North side Buxton. He is an UEFA A licence holder, the highest practical coaching qualification offered by the football association.

As a player, he was a right-back from 1987 to 2007, spending his entire 20-year playing career at Grimsby Town, and holds the club’s all-time appearance record, having played 647 league games (754 games overall) for the Mariners. He is one of only 17 players in the history of English football to play more than 600 Football League matches for a single club.

In 2009 John was awarded the annual PFA Merit Award, in recognition of his record-breaking career at Grimsby Town, joining an elite group of footballers made up of the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton, Pelé, Sir Alex Fergusson, David Beckham, Steven Gerard, Frank Lampard, Marcus Rashford and Ian Wright.

Upon retirement from playing in 2007 John moved into coaching at the Grimsby Institute before he was appointed assistant manager at Harrogate Town in 2010.

2010. He has since had spells as manager of Alfreton Town as well as coaching roles at Cleethorpes Town, Scunthorpe United, Boston United and Matlock Town.

The Programme

Students enrolling in the academy will benefit from high levels of contact time per week with our school-based UEFA licence qualified Director of Football. This will comprise of regular individual and group skills coaching sessions, regular football matches for both the Academy (and for the school when possible), and supervised strength and conditioning training.

The Academy plays fixtures in Cup Competitions, including ISFA, ESFA & County Cups. Alongside these competitions our U19s play in a competitive game Programme against other professional football club academies, increasing the exposure of our players to professional scouts. 

The Player Development Centre (PDC) programme centres around the 5-Corner Model Approach, which covers the Physical, Technical, Tactical, Psychological and Social aspects of football.

 Our PDC coaching syllabus includes: 

  • Developing play from the back
  • Defensive mentality in the defensive 1/3
  • Rotation, creativity and movement in the middle 1/3
  • Defensive organisation in the middle 1/3
  • Creative movement, crossing and finishing in the attacking 1/3
  • Pressing from the front in the attacking 1/3 

Strength and Conditioning Training

Our Academy has a lead Strength and Conditioning Coach whose role it is to ensure that all players develop their physical attributes to the maximum. Individual training programmes can be created to support players overall fitness.

Our purpose built fitness suite features a wide range of state-of-the-art cardio, resistance and functional equipment, as well as all the free weights you’d expect.

All academy players complete regular fitness testing across the season to monitor progression through several different tests.

    Training Facilities

    The home of the Academy is a brand-new state of the art 3G Astro turf pitch, built in 2022 for £1.3 million which is just ten minutes from Ackworth School. Both matches and training sessions are played here which give our players access to the best possible facilities. In addition, we have a newly refurbished gymnasium within the school ground with a huge selection of cardio and conditioning equipment as well as an indoor swimming pool.

      Admission Requirements

      Entry to the Ackworth School Football Academy will be through the School’s normal admissions process.

      At Sixth Form level, pupils must take three A-Level subjects, or the BTEC Extended Diploma in Sport, and maintain a high level of academic performance in addition to involvement in the School’s co-curricular programme.

      Football Academy pupils in years below the Sixth Form must take the required academic course appropriate to their age and ability, and involve themselves in the School’s co-curricular programme.

      Football ability will be assessed either through in-person skills assessments or via video footage when a visit to Ackworth School is not possible prior to admission.

      For more information please contact or call 01977 233621.

      Harrogate Town AFC Values

      Hardwork– We work hard to maximise our team strength

      Integrity – Striving for the highest standard on and off the pitch

      Development– We ensure all our players are given the best opportunities to develop as a player

      Pride – Proud to wear the Harrogate Town badge and what it represents

      Respect – Promoting respect throughout the club

      Fun – Always play and train with a smile on our face

      Harrogate Town AFC Links

      HTAFC Website

      HTAFC Fixtures and Results


      Sports Facilities

      Sporting facilities at Ackworth:

      • Five football pitches
      • Cricket Pitch
      • Athletics field
      • Indoor heated swimming pool
      • Newly built fitness suite
      • Four all-weather tennis courts
      • Two all-weather pitches
      • Numerous table tennis tables
      • Cross-country running courses
      • Two squash courts