IF anyone was ever to question the value of a productive youth system at a football club these days, the proof is almost certainly in the pudding at Aldershot Town.
Various Academies, PASE schemes and Centres of Excellence across the country have produced the likes of Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney over recent years and are now a pivotal to the future of the English game.
At Aldershot Town, things are no different.
Shots boss Terry Brown is a past master at producing little gems, so the fact that he is so excited with the young talent which is emerging from the youth ranks at the Recreation Ground at present, is testament to the work put in by youth and PASE Scheme coaches Simon Pullen and Martin Kuhl.
Despite the fact that Brown has been in the midst of a championship challenge has in no means affected his ability to use these youngsters at crucial times to give them valuable first team experience.
So far, the likes of Michael Harper, Mark Kleboe, Nick Sowden, Brett Cooper and Luke Walker have all enjoyed rapid progression from the youth team ranks to the thick of the Ryman League premier division, thus potentially saving the boss thousands of pounds in the transfer market.
Now is the time, however, for you to put your name forward as the potential new Rooney by signing up to the scheme, for next season.
The club are looking for any district or county player aged between 16 and 18 to join the ranks and receive the best possible coaching en route to possible stardom.
Conference football is imperative for these youngsters, who are all desperate to put their skills to the test against the best non-League football has to offer.
But the fact that they haven't yet progressed to that level has not deterred the Football League scouts, who are already flocking to the Rec to cast an eye over the likes of Harper and Jamie Taylor in particular.
Much of this success is down to the Aldershot Town PASE Scheme a -a pilot scheme run in conjunction with Farnborough College of Technology and proving a huge hit with youngsters in only its second year in operation.
Of the 28 youngsters currently registered to the scheme (12 Year 1's and 16 Year 2's), only one has come out of professional ranks - the rest are home-grown talent who are making Brown rub his hands in delight.
The under 19's set-up at the Rec have already taken on the likes of Wimbledon and Exeter City (seen pictured in action right) and this Thursday travel to Chelsea's training ground at Harlington to play their Premier League counterparts in a friendly.
But the idea of the PASE scheme is not only to give the boys the chance at fulfilling their footballing dreams, but also to give them an education, and that's where the course is progressing beyond belief.
This Autumn, a brand new course entitled Coaching and Leading Sport is being launched by the college in conjunction with Aldershot Town, giving youngsters the opportunity to study other avenues of the game including refereeing, coaching, physiotherapy and Sports Science. A similar course is also being run by the college in conjunction with the Aldershot-based NEC Harlequins rugby team.
The main aim for the Shots now is to be given Centre of Excellence status so that they don't lose their talented youngsters to hungry scouts.
Under the rules, the Shots cannot contract anyone under the age of 17, so when Watford poached starlet Anthony McNamee last season, there was nothing Pullen and the coaching staff could do about it. McNamee is now a prominent member of the Hornets first team.
Pullen, who has now become a Level 1 Coach Educator as a result of his efforts at the club, said: "Unfortunately for a lot of youngsters, football is a precarious business. Not everyone makes it and the margins between success and failure are very thin.
"That is why we have devised this course to allow the youngsters the opportunity of getting into football through other means, whether it be on the Sports Science side or refereeing.
"Everyone gets to play football and will receive the best possible coaching from myself and Martin, who has over 650 Football League appearances under his belt.
"We want to offer places to players who think they are good enough to play at senior level. We will be hosting a trial game in May sometime and everyone is welcome to come down and try out.
"The scheme may only be two years old but already it is starting to work for the benefit of the football club. We are very proud of the talented youngsters we have here and it's very gratifying to see Terry Brown select them for first team duties."
Brown himself added: "In the short time I've been here at Aldershot, I've been very impressed with the calibre of youngsters we have on board and I hope that can continue to grow because it is the future of the club.
"I had an injury crisis to my forwards against Braintree back in August, and after seeing young Michael Harper play in the reserves, I had no qualms about giving him his debut.
"I just told Michael to get out there and show me and the fans what he can do and he promptly won the game for us with two goals.
"That is what the scheme is about and I look forward in anticipation of more Michael Harper's coming along to make my job easier in respect of dealing with quality, but harder in terms of selecting a team."
If you would like to try out for next year's PASE Scheme or even join the youth team ranks, please contact the club at Aldershot Town FC, High Street, Aldershot, Hants, or by phoning either Simon Pullen or Martin Kuhl at the club offices on (01252) 320211.