STOURBRIDGE FC and Dudley College have teamed up to provide talented 16-18 year olds with football training and the chance to play at a competitive level and work towards a B-Tec Qualification, the equivalent of two A-Levels.

Around 15 youngsters have signed up and the academy team will compete in the Conference Youth Alliance against teams like Kidderminster, Solihull Moors and Sutton Coldfield Town.

They will attend college three days a week and train two days, under Academy manager John Kearney.

Club vice chairman Andy Bullingham, who has worked on the project for three years, said the education part of the programme was critical.

He said: "We needed to find an education provider that could be trusted to teach and develop the lads academically - this was vital so that is why it took a while to get the academy off the ground.

"It is wonderful to team up with Dudley College who are one of the best established colleges in the area and the scholars are safe in the knowledge they will get a good education along first class football training.

"Equally they will be playing at a high standard of football - the highest possible at this level and there will be only one team they are competing to get into, ensuring they get the best training and football experience.

"Not all the players will make it as a professional or even at Stourbridge's first team level but if we can help them to get a good job in the future and to enjoy playing football then it will have been worthwhile Some of the academy trainees also pay in the youth team and took part in the 4-0 win over last year's champions of the Midland Premier South, Rugby Town.

The academy team's first game is away to Mansfield Town on Wednesday.