Three well-known former Sunderland and Darlington footballers will provide a unique opportunity for the unemployed

Three well-known former Sunderland and Darlington footballers will provide a unique opportunity for the unemployed later this month after partnering with Orangebox Training Solutions.

Former team-mates Martin Gray, Brian Atkinson and Gary Bennett have teamed up with the Teesside training provider to lead the six-week pilot programme with limited spaces.

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Those not in education, employment or training are invited to enrol on a fully-funded Football Academy, based in Darlington, aiming to create a pathway to employment.

As well as looking to spot talent on the pitch and improve general fitness levels with the help of coach and non-league footballer Leon Scott, the ex-Black Cats and Quakers stars will help develop new skills for future employment.

The Academy will start on Monday, May 17, at Darlington’s Eastbourne Sports Complex, on

Bourne Avenue, where a training kit will be supplied to those taking part at no cost to the learner.

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Mr Gray said: “For me this is all about employability. This provides a great way to move forward and into the future after a lockdown.

“This can help people find employment while using sport as the tool to raise self-esteem and improve general wellbeing, mental health and the fight against obesity. It will be motivational and over the six weeks it will improve the skillset to help get a job.”

Learners will receive football related outcomes in communication, budgeting planning and preparation, advertising and marketing, problem-solving, role play and interview skills.

There will be high-profile guest speakers and it is hoped the attractive pilot programme will lead to more people getting work. Orangebox boasts an outstanding track record for doing just that.

Mr Bennett, who also managed Darlington, said: “We all face challenges every single day and that might even be just getting up on a morning for many.

“The pandemic has been a challenge for everyone. Overall we have been through a tough challenge and you need something to look forward to. We are trying to give people the tools to deal with those challenges head on.”

Learners will connect to the Football Association and complete online courses in areas such as safeguarding, respect for coaches, equality and diversity.

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Simon Corbett, CEO of Orangebox said: “This is a really exciting project for everyone. We will be offering additional training opportunities for youngsters in the community.

“We will provide a safe environment to develop existing skills, learn new ones and signpost career opportunities with former top-flight footballers – and you never know we might just be able to help a hidden talent on his way.”

To enrol on the new Football Academy contact Orangebox Training Solutions on 01429 874530 or email


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