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How Premiership youngsters are getting second chance at Racing Portuense

If the reaction of clubs, players and fans is anything to go by, John Gontier is onto a sure fire winner with his 'nextstars' scheme.

Thanks to a long-standing relationship with Racing Portuense, Gontier is now seeking to place released Premiership youngsters at the Spanish club.

The former Watford trainee admits he's been bowled over by the response from English clubs, with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham all keen to tap into the nextstars development route.

"I was released myself by Watford in 1978 and have always been interested in football," Gontier told tribalfootball.com.

"I have been living in El Puerto de Santa Maria since 1986 and have helped Racing Portuense on and off in the past. The club president is a friend of mine and having dinner one day in March I mentioned about the amount of players released from the Premier Academy League every year - and that's how nextstars started in April when I started getting in touch with Premier Academy league clubs in England.

"I soon started receiving calls from Manchester United, West Bromwich Albion, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City ... all wanting to know more about the scheme and giving me DVDs and contact details of their released players. I soon realised that they were interested in looking for a good home for their released players and that Spain was a good place for many to continue with their development."

Racing Portuense are no strangers to helping kickstart young careers - their latest success story being new Genoa signing Chico. The former Almeria defender enjoyed a successful spell on-loan at Racing and this summer was sold to Genoa for €4 million.

Racing's partnership with nextstars formally kicked off this summer, with released Manchester City wing-back Kingsley Grandison and Carl Sibson, who came through the system at Nottingham Forest, doing their preseason at the Tercera Division outfit.

"Yes, Kingsley and Carl are the first English players to ever have a trial with Racing Portuense," continued Gontier. "I identified them from the DVDs I was sent in collaboration with the Racing director of football (director deportivo) Javier Zafra."

Gontier admits the partnership has been embraced by Racing fans and local media - with coverage of Grandison and Sibson's progress now daily news.

"Apart from having quality young players, nextstars is the most visited page within the club website and is getting the local press and fans interested in the club," reveals Gontier.

"Double the amount of season tickets have been sold compared to this time last year and never before have so many fans come to watch the training sessions.

"The most important issue is sponsorship. This is what Racing is most hoping to get ... funds."

Its funds and sponsorship that Gontier says will allow nextstars to grant a second chance to more released Premiership youngsters.

He concedes: "What we lack is funds to carry out our 'Samaritan' work. The PFA and LFE have started the paperwork for Racing Portuense to become a placement club. This would be massive for them and the nextstars project."

Though still in its infancy, the support nextstars has generated from Premiership clubs and the PFA is proof enough that the structure already in place will bring results.

Gontier adds: "As I said, teams fortunately are very interested in placing a player, who they once loved and for whom they worked so hard and spent so much money and time on, at a good home where their good work can bear its fruit.

"I just have the love and passion of football and the desire to help young players and the England national team in the long run at heart.

"It's a pity for football to lose these players and for the hard work of so many for so long in the short life of an 18 year-old to go down the drain."

  For more information on the nextstars project and how willing sponsors can become involved, please visit Racing Club Portuense - Nextstars.

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

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