Brighton player Solly March was at the Saffrons on Wednesday night to help launch the Flair Soccer Academy and also to cast his expert eye over the talented young players of Eastbourne.
More than 60 footballers attended the opening night and had the chance to meet and have their picture taken with the Premier League star ahead of their first training session with Flair.
March, who began his youth football career with Hailsham United, said, “When I was a youngster I was doing the same thing. Any chance to come to a football school, I would be there. There’s good coaching here and it’s a great opportunity for them to learn their skills. I think there are 60 kids here and it’s great to see them all with smiles on their faces.
“It’s nice for me too. It is a little way for me to give back for the community. It’s great to see them happy with me to be here.
“My first memories of football was playing in the garden,” March added. “As soon as I could walk I had a ball with me. I used to play at every opportunity and then I joined a club.
“I have photos of me when I was about two-foot tall running around with a ball, just like these kids, with a smile on my face and that’s what it’s all about.
“I still enjoying the football. Obviously there is more pressure but you enjoy it as much as you can. If I have any advice to youngsters, it is just to play with a smile on your face and enjoy it. That’s always the main thing.”
March’s football career progressed at Bede’s School and he also made a few first team appearances for Lewes. His talent was soon recognised by Brighton and he signed his first contract for them in 2011.
“I got scouted by Brighton. I think they were watching games for a few months. The opportunity came and I couldn’t turn it down really and it obviously proved the right choice.
“I think my first game was an FA Cup game at Reading. Oscar Garcia was the manager at the time. I remember feeling very nervous beforehand but I played well on the day and that helped settle me down. I remember feeling very proud. But it was relief more than anything because you work so hard to get there. Although you feel you have done it. You have to keep pushing on and keep working hard.
“My first goal came against Fulham in the league. We were struggling at the time and I came off the bench and scored. It was shortly before Chris (Hughton) came in as manager, we were not doing very well, so it was a good time to score. Hopefully I can start scoring a few more in the Premier. That is the aim for me now.”
March’s career has flourished under Hughton and he hopes to continue his development as a player in the Premier League with the Seagulls.
“Chris Hughton trusts me and he is a great manager to work for. I enjoy playing for him and hopefully we can do it for many more years to come.
“I’m playing regular football in the Premier League so there is nothing not to enjoy. We have started the first half of the season well and I don’t see why we cannot finish in the top half.”
From his beginnings at Hailsham United, March is now up against the world’s finest and he rates Eden Hazard and Philippe Coutinho as the best he’s faced.
“Coutinho for Liverpool, when we played him no-one could really get near him. He was absolute quality and he’s at Barca now so it shows you how good he is. Hazard is also there in that league. Playing against players of that level does become the norm but the first few times you think, ‘Wow...I was playing against you on Fifa and now I’m sharing a pitch and competing.’
“It was a dream really but you have to adapt and you have to get used to it and quickly.”
March is pleased of his achievements with Brighton so far but the 24-year-old with an eye for goal remains hugely ambitious.
“I want to get to the highest level,” he added. “I want to play at the top. I want to play for one of those big English clubs and hopefully play for England one day. You have to aim high and keep working hard and anything can happen.”
Flair Soccer Academy is new to Eastbourne. Former Brighton, Eastbourne Borough and Eastbourne Town player Danny Simmonds has linked up with ex-Brighton and Gillingham youth coach Dave Temple.
The academy offers youngsters aged 2-16 an opportunity to experience excellent coaching whilst still being able to enjoy matches through their grass roots club. Flair have already formed two partnerships with Eastbourne Town Youth and Stone Cross Royals. Simmonds said, “Flair will enjoy developing young players in the community whilst providing support to local players, teams and managers.
“We are running a pre-academy age 2-5 and a full academy programme with players aged 6-16, all abilities are welcome.
“We also encourage young players to join even if they are not attached to the clubs that we have already forged a partnership with.”
For more information, email email@example.com