SILSDEN AFC and Craven College are joining forces to provide a pathway for promising teenagers to make the transition into high grade senior football.

After initial talks last season, the two parties have formalised a link between the College’s academy and the Cobbydalers, who, alongside their first team, run a development XI and under-19s side, plus a large junior set-up.

The Northern Counties East League club are set to provide playing opportunites for youngsters from the Skipton-based College, which runs a football education programme for 16 to 19-year-olds.

Head of Football at Craven College Luke Swindlehurst said: “I’m delighted we have come to an agreement with Silsden. They are a respected community club with strong foundations and it is a perfect route for our students to go and test themselves at that standard of football.”

The Football Association actively encourage the formation of partnerships between local clubs and colleges.

West Riding County FA Football Development Officer Jack Matthews said: “The partnership will not only provide players with a route into a local club but also offer opportunities for students to get involved in other voluntary club roles and further develop their skillsets.

“I’m sure both parties will benefit greatly from the partnership and I hope it can be used as a blueprint for others to follow in the future.”

Silsden chairman Sean McNulty said he hoped the link-up will potentially help the club progress to a higher level.

“As the highest ranked club in the Aire Valley it is vital that a club of our standing can attract the best players in the area,” he said.

“This partnership gives Silsden the opportunity to do just that and, hopefully, to progress to the next level in the Football League Pyramid.

“The links could spread further in the future with students from Craven College being involved in coaching, physiotherapy, marketing and advertising, web design, catering and other aspects of running a club at this level.”

Silsden commercial manager Barry Thomas, who helped negotiate the deal, said: “It has to be a great milestone in the long history of Silsden AFC, both on and off the field.

“It helps fill the gap between our junior and senior teams and ensures we are doing as much as we can to keep the young students connected to sport in line with a directive from the FA.”