‘Proud’ father of released Bristol City player talks his son’s departure and helping other starlets achieve their dream

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The local Bristol football coach and father of a Robins youth player talks about making the move into representation.

Patrick Williams knows a lot about what it takes to become a professional footballer.

Pupils from his Bristol Inner City Football Academy (BICFA) continually to go on to join Bristol City and Bristol Rovers' academies, with another batch of seven players being signed up in the last year at Ashton Gate.

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And from then, anything is possible, with BICFA alumni Owura and Opi Edwards, James Morton and Saikou Janneh all going on to make professional senior debuts at Ashton Gate and illustrating what can happen next.

Other players, such as Kacper Lopata and Miguel Freckleton are both with Sheffield United too, after time with BICFA.

Williams' own son has been in the ranks of the Robins, from the age of eight years old playing alongside Ayman Benarous and Ryley Towler all the way through to his scholarship years.

Unfortunately, Nathaniel Williams was released last month however, along with fellow young players Khari Allen, Barney Soady and Louis Britton.

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"I'm proud of him because he's shown great resilience in very difficult situations at times and he's had patella tendonitis for one year of his scholar year and picked up a stress fracture in his first season as a pro," explains Patrick of his son.

Left centre-back or wing-back Nathaniel will remain with the Robins for the foreseeable future however, as a shin injury means that Bristol City will treat their former player as a duty of care until he can play again.

This is the side of football that supporters do not always see, the underside to the success of young players breaking through to the first team and making an impact under the nose of Nigel Pearson.

Rehab continues but trial offers at other clubs cannot be taken up until full fitness is gained again.

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Patrick, who used to be on the books of Bristol Rovers, knows the responsibility of looking after players. His not-for-profit football group is based predominantly in Easton's City Academy School, and now he has taken on extra duties.

He has started his own player agency - to look after some of the best players that he spots. The VMP Sports Agency may be a name to keep an eye out for in the future.

"Lockdown came along and somebody said to me why didn't I give it a go. I did some courses and one of my good friends is an agent," explains Patrick. "But he said he didn't enjoy it. I said I'm going to do it but put my own slant on it.

"It's not going to change the person who I am but I'm going to go about it the way that it suits me and to match my personality.

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"It has been interesting. I've done it really because I have a lot of players going into the system [into professional clubs] through BICFA and most of those go into Bristol City and Bristol Rovers.

“Over the last 12 months I think we have more than 20 players who have gone into the system, to a number of clubs as scholars and youth academy players.

"I wanted to do it because I wanted to continue the journey with the players," he explains. "I feel that some of them needed guardianship, maybe because some might not have a father figure in their lives - and I'm not saying that's what I am - but I can support them and I have a good understand of the journey.

"I've been through it with both of my boys [Nathaniel's brother Jordan is 24 who is still playing semi professionally].

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"I've seen the bumps in the road and I know what they look like. I like to think that I'm respected by the local clubs that we've worked with and that our players have gone to over the years. I'd like to think that's a mutual thing," says Patrick.

Patrick's support has helped players move on to other clubs and better opportunities, often that have led to a higher standard of football or even better first-team chances.

"You have to realise that it's not about money. Nobody makes a penny on a player between 16 and 19 usually," says Patrick.

"It's definitely at the top end before any money is earned, but the support we give is over and above the norm, from speaking to people.

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"It's easy for me to do this because I have relationships with the players already. A lot of players are signed by agents who they have no relationship with."

Obviously success won't come for everybody but at least the players know Patrick and know what he stands for: "it makes sense".

Patrick is being selective and can't take on every player and as an example of how he works, he would never tell a player about a club's interest in them until he has written confirmation from the club himself.

That helps avoid some unfortunate pitfalls in the game where several clubs show interest in a player from different levels.

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Another vital role is to guide parents properly. Scholarship forms can be signed without the full consequences thought over. What if things don't work out? Will a release be forthcoming and will compensation be needed?

"Parents can sometimes have no idea of how it works. A early scholarship deal is put in front of you, and they feel they should sign it. They might not realise that by signing up to that period they're signing up to a lot of compensation and their child can't go anywhere," says Patrick.

"I'm not saying that boys from Bristol should not stay in Bristol but there are 92 football clubs."

Relationships are being built with clubs and the BICFA are offering more and more opportunities via showcase fixtures and their relationships made.

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If players cannot make it at the Bristol clubs then there may be a chance at Plymouth, Cheltenham, Swindon, Newport or elsewhere further a field.

Meanwhile wellbeing and support can often be lacking at professional clubs and good representatives can make up the shortfall here.

"Every player is different - it's not one size fits all, but some clubs unfortunately do see it that way," he adds. Sports psychology is another area that is focused on, including dealing with stresses, communication and becoming resilient.

The new challenge excites Patrick, whose plans for BICFA includes a bigger match programme now that the covid pandemic is residing, with trips to europe in the works.

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As to the VMP Sports Agency, which includes representing Bristol City starlet Seb Palmer-Houlden who has been out to Austria with the Robins senior side recently, it's a steady climb upwards. There are 14 players on the roster and more are about to be announced imminently.

A life-long friend and business partner helps with negotiations and helps leave Patrick to concentrate on the mentoring and actual football.

"As a coach supported by our another partner, it means that we can critique their performance on the pitch as well as off it," says Patrick, who finished his own playing career early due to injury.

There are many hazards on the road to becoming a footballer and Patrick hopes to help Bristolian talents avoid them as they look for that path to success.

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