Eastbourne Borough’s future appears to be in safe hands.

Halfway through its first season, the club’s academy is already proving to be a success.

Three players have tasted first team action and others have sat on the bench for the Conference side south.

Academy manager Jay Lovett knows the pressure is on to provide a steady stream of players for the first team, particularly in tough economic times, but he believes the progress is ahead of schedule.

Borough are joint top of their Conference Youth Alliance division, which is especially pleasing as they are mainly 16 and 17-year-olds in an under-19 league.

Max Taylor scored on his first team debut in a Sussex Senior Cup tie with Shoreham, defender Richie Welch made his full debut in that game and Dean Bown has already made his Conference south bow, while Ryan Worrall, Toby Clifford and Dan Hutchins have been unused substitutes in league games.

Borough launched their academy in September. The idea was to provide a missing link between the first team and the club’s successful development centre, offering a two-year full-time educational and football programme for up to 24 boys.

Lovett, a former Borough favourite and one-time professional with Brentford, combines the role with playing for Ryman League Lewes.

He said: “We have done really well and brought some good players through. Five or six of our squad have featured on the bench or played for the first team which is a really good achievement at such a young age.

“We have come a long way in a short space of time. It is moving very nicely in the right direction. We will only get bigger and better and, being our first year, we are learning lots about ourselves and where we can improve as well.

“The players are doing really well and they are progressing in the right way. The good thing is Tommy Widdrington (first team manager) is quite happy to look at the youngsters and give them a chance to prove themselves.

“Tommy is very positive and takes a keen interest. He watches pretty much every home game and a fair few away games. He knows all the players and he is happy to bring them into the first team squad.

“There is a big jump from under-16s to academy football and there is a big jump between academy and men’s football. Tommy tries to bridge the gap as quick as he can by getting them involved in training.

“The budget was cut this year so Tommy is working with a lot smaller squad than in previous years. The emphasis falls on to the academy to push people through so we can fill his squad numbers up if injuries arise. We need to have players who are ready for first team football.”

Many of the 20 boys currently in the academy have backgrounds with professional clubs and all of them are from Sussex.

Lovett added: “The good thing is it is locally sourced players that are getting a second chance.

“We are trying to supply players to get into the first team at Eastbourne, if not give them a platform to go on to higher things.

“For me, it is the perfect job. I have played football all my life and I won’t be able to play football all my life.

“I have been coaching for ten to 12 years and progressing myself.

“This is a job you wake up every morning and you are happy to do – and your enthusiasm is important to the boys as well.

“Everything with the academy is Monday to Friday and matchdays are Wednesdays so I still have my weekends free to go and play for Lewes.”

Borough’s academy is looking for kit sponsors for next year. Email Ebfcacademy@yahoo.co.uk for more details.