3D academy expansion plans

MARK Aston is overseeing an expansion of the football academy at Saddleworth 3Ds.

The FA Level 2 coach from Dobcross, whose father and grandfather were Manchester United greats, will be nurturing young talent at the club.Mark, who has 25 years’ coaching experience, will be helping to produce players for the junior sides.

Under the new format, the Saddleworth School-based academy will be enlarged.

The academy was initially for children aged between four and six, but that is now expanded for ages four to 11 years.

The Monday sessions will be split into two – ages four to seven between 5.30pm and 6.30pm and ages eight to 11 from 6.30pm to 7.30pm.

The new academy will be up and running in September, subject to Covid-19 permitting.

Mark became involved with 3Ds through his 15-year-old son Joe who came through the 3D academy before joining Curzon Ashton.

“I took Joe along as a parent and the club was looking for somebody to run the academy. That is how it started,” he said.

Mark, who has been academy coach for the last decade, is excited by the expansion plans.

He pointed to the success of the younger children, explaining: “Four teams – that is 28 players – have moved up and will play for the Under-7s this season in the East Manchester Junior Football League, their first experience of competitive football.

“My job is to find players, get them going and pass them on to teams.”

Mark added it will be a similar ethos for the new academy for ages eight to 11.

He continued: “Those teams are over subscribed so the academy will effectively be a holding pen, so we don’t lose them.

“Children want to play, which they will do in the academy, and we will try and fit them into a team.

“Some children don’t want to play competitively so we can accommodate them as well. It is all about playing and having fun.”

Mark, 49, a personal trainer with his own gym in Delph, is a former PE teacher at Bury Grammar School where one of his students was Marcus Holness who went on to play for Oldham Athletic, Rochdale, Burton Albion and Tranmere Rovers.

He has coached the North of England and England Independent Schools’ teams.

As a player, midfielder Mark represented Loughborough University and played for England B Universities as well as having a spell in non-league at Mossley.

It is no surprise Mark should have a footballing gene as his father and grandfather were both great players.

Dad John Aston Jnr was a member of Manchester United’s 1968 European Cup winning team before later having a pet shop in Stalybridge and stall at Glossop Market.

Mark can vaguely remember his dad, now aged 73, playing for Luton Town at the end of his career.

His late granddad John Aston Snr was a member of United’s 1948 FA Cup winning team which was regarded as the first superstar team.

Granddad was also capped 17 times by England, including two appearances in the 1950 finals of the World Cup, including the infamous 1-0 defeat to the USA.

Mark also believes his father and grandfather are in the record books as the only players to win league titles in the top division for the same club.

“Peter and Kasper Schmeichel have achieved that but for different clubs,” he explained.

Mark’s son Joe is the fourth generation of the family to play football.

Joe, a central midfielder, was a member of Curzon Ashton U14s treble-winning team the season before last and in the campaign just ended he helped them reach the county cup final which was never played because of Covid-19.

Saddleworth School student Joe, who was 15 days ago, is also a talented cricketer who has played for Lancashire for the last four years.

He also opens the batting for Greenfield’s first team. Indeed, his senior debut was aged just 13.

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