Hazlehead Academy striking gold in developing tomorrow’s football stars

Hazlehead Academy is today (Thursday 19 January) toasting the success of its football programme which saw pupil and Aberdeen FC starlet Chris Antoniazzi make his first team debut for the Dons in Dubai at the weekend.

16 year old Chris’ rise into the first team ranks is just the latest milestone for Hazlehead Academy which is one of only seven Scottish Football Association (SFA) Performance Schools in the country. The initiative has seen 35 pupils, both boys and girls, from all over the North East attend the school and take part in the S1-S4 programme. The programme aims for ‘Better Players, Better Grades, Better People’ by putting the best players in with the best while also focusing on studies.

The aim of the four year individualised programme is to develop well-rounded individuals who demonstrate the same commitment to education that they show in their football training.

Since kicking off in August 2012, the programme at Hazlehead has seen the first cohort of pupils complete in May last year with 12, three of whom are now full time with Aberdeen FC, attending a graduation ceremony at Hampden Park. A further seven have stayed on at the school to further their education. There are hopes that some of those seven pupils will also be offered full-time professional playing contracts this summer.

The current S4 group includes four pupils who have been capped at international level as part of the seven pupils in total who have made international debuts over the course of the programme. Ten players have been involved in their clubs under-20s or reserve squads while still at school.

Councillor Angela Taylor, Education and Children’s Services Committee Convener, said; “By any yardstick, Hazlehead Academy’s involvement in the SFA Performance Schools programme has been a great success. The achievements of Chris and other pupils is a testament not only to the initiative but also the hard work and dedication of staff at the school.

“Equally pleasing, however, are the academic attainments of the pupils taking part in the programme. The emphasis on education fits perfectly with Aberdeen City Council’s commitment to providing a varied curriculum that engages both pupils and staff alike so it’s great to see things working so well in that regard also.”

Chris Antoniazzi was part of the initial 2012 Hazlehead cohort in the SFA programme and, after a spell at the Celtic Football Academy in Glasgow, he returned to the school to continue his education when he returned to Aberdeen FC last summer.

Stuart Craig, Depute Head Teacher at Hazlehead Academy said; “Since his return Chris has continued to be a role model for all pupils, but especially those younger than himself. He has been particularly involved in mentoring some younger pupils who require additional support with their learning actively encouraging them to use these supports and seek help”.