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The Newcastle Vikings will be playing league football for the first time next season. But they're not there just to make up the numbers.
The North East club have announced ambitious plans which will provide the club with a solid foundation, and also help introduce American Football to a new generation of players.
These moves include:
- The promotion of head coach Ben Johnson to a director of coaching role, overseeing the club's sporting direction
- The expansion of the club's academy, driven by a £10,000 grant from Sport England
- A partnership with Northumbria University's Northumbria Mustangs team, providing talented university players with a route to the senior league
Head Coach Ben Johnson said: “We came in with one purpose this year, to qualify through the associate process. We have not only achieved that, but shown the league we are not only fit for purpose, but a rising force in the North East of England.”
The Vikings' hunger for league football was demonstrated this summer, as they completed the four required associate games in double-quick time. The four-game schedule featured games against the Yorkshire Rams and East Kilbride Pirates, and the club's first ever win against the Leeds Bobcats. The most recent game was a 13-6 defeat against the Bobcats, but the directors have set a long-term plan in place to give the club time to build.
The Vikings will be recruiting a new head coach to replace Coach Johnson in the coming months, but the new hire will inherit an ambitious team with a blend of youth and experience. The oldest player suiting up for the club in its first year was 42 years old, but there's also a focus on youth at the fledgling Vikings.
The Vikings have launched a schools programme which has attracted over 250 cadet level players, while five youth/cadet teams were either formed or joined the Vikings Satellite programme this year.
The North Durham Knights, Darlington Steam, Cramlington Phoenix, Washington Predators and the Team Valley Cavaliers have all played at least one fixture internally and provided players for the Vikings BAFANL Youth team.
This project will expand even further in future, thanks to a £10,000 award from Sport England. The Vikings are now on the hunt for any schools or community organisations that wish to get involved with the sport.
Matt Logan, Head Coach of the North Durham Knights, said: “Working with these youngsters is so refreshing. They just want to play. And that excitement and togetherness has helped us build teams into small communities. The feeder system into the academy team has meshed those communities together and the young players in the North East have a good understanding of football and each other.
"The Vikings have at least three further confirmed teams to establish for next season and are working on a football in schools package that can be delivered through local councils as CPD to teachers. The addition of a cadet internal league next school year will only deepen and strengthen the roots of the Vikings Academy."
The Vikings are also delighted to announce their partnership with the Northumbria Mustangs BUCS team.
Team Northumbria's nationwide reputation for sport and athlete preparation is growing, and the link-up will allow talented student athletes to benefit from excellent coaching as they step up to the senior leagues.
The partnership will also give players at all levels a chance to take advantage of excellent facilities at a lower cost. Vikings coach Graham Kelly will become Head Coach of the Mustangs, and will have an experienced coaching staff to draw on as the team prepares for the upcoming season.
The Northumbria Mustangs open up their season against the Sunderland Spartans on November 9.
To find out more about the Newcastle Vikings go to www.newcastlevikings.com or like us on Facebook.