We recently caught up with SAP and NSFA graduate Cameron Leverton and his father Giles to discuss his transition from the Northern Tigers to the Hull City Tigers Under 13’s Academy.
Hi Cameron. Great to speak to you again. We hear that you have just been re-signed for Hull, congratulations. What will a typical week look like for you in 2017/18?
Monday: 90 minutes skills and 60 minutes gym strengthening work.
Tuesday: 9am to 5pm Day release. Mixture of lessons & football training. NO SCHOOL!!!
Wednesday: Bio Banding. 120 mins training with any age group, but with boys that are same size & build.
Saturday: Training 12pm to 2pm then match review 60 minutes. Every fourth week, we have a mixed tournament with 13’s/ 14’s/15’s
Sunday: Match Day. With Travelling / warm up / match reviews, this is usually a full day.
How does the competition work? Do you get to play against EPL academy teams?
Cameron: Hull are part of FA Category 2. I think you get put into Categories depending how much you invest in the Academy. Hull moved from Category 3 to Category 2 the year I started, so went from playing Division 3 teams to Premier league teams. We did not win many matches that year.
Now we play Category 1 and 2 Academies through the season, which are within a 2 hour travelling distance. These teams include Manchester City / Derby / Sheffield Wednesday & United / Sunderland / Middlesbrough / Barnsley / Leeds / Huddersfield / Newcastle / Bolton.
We also play a number of Tournaments through the season, so have also played Liverpool and Manchester United this year.
Does Hull’s relegation have any impact on youth football?
Giles: Nothing changed when Hull were promoted, so nothing will change now Hull have been relegated.
A lot of the first team have been sold, which has meant a number of the Under 23’s have moved up into the first team. This has had a chain reaction on the other age groups, as gaps appear in the 23’s / 18’s / 16’s. This then gives players the opportunity to play up in the year above. Cameron was lucky enough to play up a year a few times last year, which was fantastic, so he hopes this will happen again.
The new Hull Manager is the ex-Russian National Manager, so we are hoping he will be able to take the club straight back up to the Premier League.
How do you fit in all your homework?
Cameron: I know if I don’t get my homework done, then I will get in trouble at home & school, so I have to do it at school or during my night off.
Now we have started the ‘Day Release’, the club are getting much more involved in our progress at school. Hull have an Education Manager, who liaise with the schools, and track our Learning Cycle results. If I fall behind, or my results start going backward, then they can remove me from the Day Release.
The School have been really supportive, and my Year Head has a son who has been through the Leeds United Academy, and has now signed a professional contract, so he understands what a great opportunity this is.
What’s been the best part about playing at this level?
Cameron: It was originally really hard to fit in, as all the team had been at the Academy for three years, so I was the outsider.
I just focus on what the coaches are telling me at each review and training session, and try hard to get better. I got told my attitude and focus has been the main reason why I get selected to play up a year.
I love playing football against different teams, and travelling to play at different Academies. I also like getting positive feedback from the coaches, which makes all the hard work worthwhile.
My favourite match was against Manchester City. They have spent £250m on their academy, so have 8 full size synthetic pitches, 3 Full size Grass Pictures, 3 full size indoor pitches, 20’000 seater stadium, with Canteen and schooling facilities.
When we played there last time, they had just signed someone our age from Everton for £50k. No wonder we lost 13:0.
I also love going on tours & playing tournaments. Travelling with all my friends in the big club bus, staying away in nice hotels without mum & dad, flying to Europe is really exciting.
What role did Northern Tigers play in your development?
Cameron: I would never be doing what I am today if I had not got a good grounding at the Northern Tigers.
Dad did his best coaching me at Mount Colah in our first year in Australia, but getting selected for the Northern Tigers took the training and coaching to a different level.
The SAP structure, regular training sessions and playing the best teams in Sydney really helped me improve through my 2 years.
How would you compare the standard of the FNSW SAP program to the setup at Hull. What are the main similarities / differences?
Cameron: I think it is much tougher at the Hull Academy, as there is much more competition to get in, and you are more likely to get released if you do not develop in line with expectations. I had a two week unofficial trial, then a six week official trial, before I got signed.
We have reviews every six weeks with three coaches, where we are told what we have done well, and what we need to improve on before the next review.
You can also get released at Christmas and at the end of the season. This year, eight players from the 14’s squad were released, so I do get very nervous at my reviews.
The club have to follow a very structured FA programme, which they get monitored on through the season. I am not sure of all the details.
Hull also have a very good physio set up, and are very strict with injuries. I had Achilles Tendinopathy in January, and they stopped me playing for eight weeks. During that time, I had to go for regular treatment, and then be rehabilitated, and was not allowed to go back training until the Physio signed me off.
Ok Giles, Cameron was also heavily involved in Athletics when he lived in Sydney. Do you think this helped his development?
Giles: 100% helped him get where he is today. He gets measured twice a year on his fitness etc., and has been told his speed is a year ahead, and jumping is two years ahead of his age.
Athletics over here is appalling, and he has almost done nothing since he left Australia, which is really disappointing.
You are very lucky to have the Little A’s set up, and I would encourage any players to do it to balance out the intense football training. Hull encourage the boys to do other sports to build up other muscles, not just “football ones”.
Apart from Hull which English team would you most like to play for?
Cameron: My dream would be to play for Manchester City, but they never seem to have any English players in the 1st team.
We keep getting told now that if we want a contract in four years, then it is for us to prove we deserve it. I really hope this happens, but I know it will be really hard work to keep up all the school work and training.
I would love to come back to Australia on tour one day, and see the new club and pitches you have built, and see everyone again, or perhaps everyone could come over and see me.
Thanks Cameron. Everyone at Northern Tigers has fond memories of your family and of course watching you play. It is no surprise that your attitude is what sets you apart from other players. You were hard-working, humble and always put the team above your own performance.
Congratulations once again and we all look forward to seeing you continue to enjoy your football, and maybe one day take your place on the big stage.