THE football season may be coming to a close, but one aspect of Taunton Town in particular is looking to the future.

Taunton Youth Football Club Community Trust runs a programme for players in the Under-11 to Under-16 age groups, with all levels of ability welcome to join.

The programme is overseen by chairman Steve Willis, who explained how the community trust came about, and his role in it.

“The youth section started last season, as part of the main club,” he said.

“I know Kevin [Sturmey, Taunton Town chairman] as I played cricket with him.

“So we had discussions with Paul West [head of development], from halfway through that first season.

“We recognised the need to run it separately, so a few of discussed the best model for that and had some good advice from Albert Goodman.

“We felt the best way was to form a charitable trust, and we received consent for that in December.”

There are now 160 youngsters involved, some in the training group, others in the match programme.

The match programme group consists of players who have shown the ability to perform at a standard above their local grassroots league, and they play in the Junior Premier League – a nationwide development competition – on Saturdays.

Of the current Taunton group, only one player is a girl, but Willis emphasises that they are open to girls and will not turn anyone away.

He said: “When we started, it was more aimed at the top end, but as it developed we had a rethink over models, and wanted to make it more all-inclusive.

“We are open to anyone interested in playing football; we won’t say no to anyone based on ability.”

Club chairman Sturmey is eager to keep young people in the area involved in sport past the age of 16, and both the community trust and the relationship with Bridgwater & Taunton College are key aspects of that.

The trust’s ‘Aims & Objectives’ read: “The purpose of our club is to advance amateur football, to promote participation in healthy recreation and to encourage young people to get involved.

“Any child of qualifying age, regardless of footballing ability, is welcome to come and train with us.

“Our intention is that all players (training groups and match squads) will be developed to a level where they maximise their potential.

“Our aim is to develop players for the highest level of football possible; this links in with our education partner, Bridgwater & Taunton College & University Centre Somerset, so that post school Year 11 players move into a college style football academy scheme.”

Willis added: “The aim is to fill the gap between grassroots football and professional club academies.

“We aim to give everyone a game per week, with the JPL also growing rapidly.

“We foster the link between the main club and BTC, taking players from Under-11 to Under-16 level, then hope for a smooth handover to BTC if that’s what the players want.

“We encourage a love of an active life, and playing at whatever level they are most comfortable at.

“We can’t control players, but the pathway is there if they want it.”

In terms of the future, Willis hopes to see young players graduate into Taunton’s first team, while continuing to offer football to as many girls and boys as possible.

He said: “One of our primary aims was to provide players for the first team.

“It would be good to see one or more young players make the first team squad, while the club continues to thrive.

“A lot of boys and girls come to play JPL matches; you can only have so many in the squad, but we can add teams.

“We want to have a team at every level from U11 to U16, and expand if possible.”

New players will be able to attend open training sessions, starting in the last two weeks of April (Under-11s) and spread throughout May (U12-U16) on the grass pitches along Heron Drive.

For all the dates, and to register, visit

Currently, weekly training sessions also take place at Bishop Fox’s, Queen’s College and Taunton Vale Sports Club, and every year the Under-13s have the opportunity to play a match at the Viridor Stadium.

Only time will tell whether one of those youngsters will be playing there every week, for the Taunton first team, in the future.