Ed Butler batting for Devon U14s against Oxfordshire<br>credit: www.ppauk.com/photo/2144390/

PLAYER development in Devon is about to enter a new era thanks to a partnership agreement between Devon CCC and the Devon Cricket Board.

The two organisations will run a programme for talented young players that will strive to build on a similar model to that used by First-Class county academies.

The Devon Cricket Academy, which came into being on September 1, will replace the Devon Lions programme run by the county club since the winter of 2010.

The Lions programme was created by Devon CCC to help young cricketers bridge the gap between club and county cricket. Matt Theedom, the development manager for Devon, said merging the age-group expertise of the cricket board with the county club’s wider experience, can only be good the development and progression of young players.

Sandy Allen, who will run the new Devon Cricket Academy“As a new ECB partnership agreement between Boards, National (Minor Counties) and First-Class counties is imminent, and a strengthening partnership between Devon Cricket and Somerset CCC is taking place, the decision has been made to streamline the pathway for talented young Devon players so that they have the best possible chance of playing at the highest level, “ said Theedom.

“Sandy Allen has been appointed as head coach and, working with the Devon CCC director of cricket (Dave Tall), will lead a team of specialist coaches with level-three and level-four qualifications in a bid to produce more players capable of achieving recognition in National and First-Class cricket.”

Allen, the pathway and coaching manager for Devon Cricket, will lead the new initiative as part of his job.

Allen, who won Minor County Championships and Lord’s finals as a Devon player between 2005-2015, is eager to tackle the challenges his new appointment will bring.

“I’m very excited about expanding my role and working with a wider group of talented players,” said Allen. “Linking up all parts of the player pathway is something I am very keen to do.”

Allen is no stranger to academies as he was one of the first cricket scholars taken on by Warwickshire when they started one of the first nearly 20 years ago.

Theedom said the Devon Cricket Academy would tap into other resources that can help players develop.

“Local specialists with be used for strength and conditioning, nutrition and psychology,” said Theedom.

Players invited on to the academy will train intensively throughout the winter, starting in December 2019, at the Devon Cricket Centre. “Players can expect to have a full winter training programme and a summer match play programme,” said Theedom.

“Each will have a tailored one-to-one schedule, as well as specific skill-set sessions and a game-based schedule.

“Closer links will be forged with First-Class counties, especially neighbouring Somerset, to ensure that coaching delivery will be of the highest quality.”

The David Shepherd Cricket Trust played an integral part in the creation of the Devon Lions. The new Devon Cricket Academy will benefit from developing cooperation between the County and the Board and also anticipates receiving support from the David Shepherd Cricket Trust.

Neil Gamble, the chairman of Devon CCC, said: “We warmly welcome the new initiative, which builds on Lions’ foundations and aims to strengthen the player pathway in the age range 17-19 and above, to the benefit of our talented young players and Devon Cricket as a whole.”

Before looking ahead to the new enterprise, Theedom took time to reflect on the work done by the Lions and their director of coaching Tim Western over the previous nine years.

Tim Western - with the Lions from the start as coaching director“We are all very grateful for the work carried out to provide opportunities to aspiring young cricketers in Devon,” said Theedom.

“Tim Western and his team have helped numerous players prepare for the rigours of National Counties cricket.

“As will look to the future we will further develop the Academy coaching staff and add some very experienced and talented coaches to the team, who can support and mentor a new crop of players and prepare them for the challenges ahead.

“Above all, we wish to develop self-aware players who have the capability of thinking for themselves. We believe this will enable players win matches for Devon, which is ultimately what we would like to see, or hopefully achieve greater recognition in the First-Class arena.”

Initially the new Devon Cricket Academy will be focussed on male players. Once the future of the women’s performance pathway is confirmed by the ECB, it is anticipated female players might also become part of the Devon Cricket Academy programme.

Over the coming weeks and months, coaching staff for the new academy will be appointed and player selection will be debated. Inductions and initial screening for players will take place in December with the main bulk of the programme beginning after Christmas and into 2020.

Any coaches who have the required qualifications and who are interested in being involved in the Devon Cricket Academy should express their interest to Matt Theedom via matt.theedom@ecb.co.uk