By Paul Fletcher MBE

During our first intake of UCFB students in 2010, I remember a few of the students who seemed to be involved in everything – their familiar faces kept popping up everywhere. I’d go to a football match at an away ground and one of them would be working in the car park. I went to Old Trafford Cricket Ground once and Tim Newton was working as a steward; Jonny Morville worked for a short period for UCFB after he had graduated, and Faye Orme seemed to be asking all the right questions and was prepared to get involved in everything that would lead her on to a bright future in the football industry. There was also Josh Ambler who got involved in any task he was given and he saw a big future for himself in football.

When I asked all of them back then what jobs they wanted in the football industry, none of them had a clear understanding of either what they wanted or what jobs were available. But during this period all four of these students realised that what they lacked was experience, and they were all prepared to find some of this elusive asset in the knowledge that doors would open wider to the ones with experience, rather than the ones without it.

So let’s move the story forward a few years. I was recently over in Philadelphia looking at a stadium project I’ve been helping with. On the flight over I received a text from Tim asking if he, Jonny, Faye and Josh could call round at my hotel for a chat and a beer. Each one of them had applied for a position with MSSL (now known as EDP – Eastern Development  Programme) and have been working over there for the last couple of years.

It was very refreshing when Steven Shilling, chairman of EDP, said to me: “Do you know Paul, your UCFB graduates are streets ahead of American teenagers.”

Steve has said this to me on a number of occasions and I believe he is now in his third year of recruitment of UCFB graduates. They have a reasonable remuneration package too: $30,000 p/a plus expenses; free accommodation in a huge university city; two cars between the four of them and, most importantly, they are working in the football industry.

Has it been easy for these student to work and settle in America? No, they’ve each had their difficulties. I remember Jonny almost in tears when his visa application was rejected while the others had their applications approved. Jonny re-applied, took more time filling in the new application, spoke to a US visa attorney and finally his visa was granted.

I asked Jonny if he’d be staying in America, and he replied: “It depends how my American girlfriend sees it. We have to decide where our futures lies but I’m now pretty confident that I can get a job in football anywhere in the world. And I also know how to apply for visas!”

One day I’m sure one or all of these graduates will land one of the top jobs in football somewhere in the world. And I’ll remember each of them looking nervous in their first year at UCFB, wondering what the future holds.