FOREST Green are certainly turning to youth after linking up with South Gloucestershire and Stroud College.

Budding football stars of the future are combining football with a BTech Level Sport or Business qualification.

The fledgling youngsters are under the wing of Forest Green coach Scott Bartlett, who is head of the academy at the Stroud-based SGS College.

He said: “Last year we made good progress with the youth team but we had a limited amount of time with to work with the players.

“With the academy now based at SGS College our new squad study together in the mornings and train in the afternoons on a daily basis.

“We play in an U19 league on a Wednesday as well as the South West Counties League on a Saturday morning and this can only be beneficial to both SGS College and Forest Green.”

The academy have already got the season off to a flyer, taking seven points from a possible nine in the South West Counties League, including a 3-1 won over current champions Salisbury and three wins in the FA Youth Cup.

Former Forest Green striker Simon Panes, director of sports academies at SGS College, is delighted with the partnership.

“We at South Gloucestershire and Stroud are delighted to be in partnership with Forest Green Rovers,” said Panes.

“We recognise to develop good players we must develop good well educated people and the boys need to understand the significance in succeeding both on and off the field of play. “With the success of the football programme at our Filton campus we are sure that the programme at Stroud can be just as successful.”

Forest Green boss David Hockaday is no stranger to academy football having implemented the first ever one at Cirencester College before moving on to head up academies at Watford and Southampton.

He said: "My history in the game is all about believing in youth - I've worked in numerous Championship and Premiership academies and I know how important young players are. So as soon as my chairman Dale Vince gave me the brief for this club, I immediately got Scott Bartlett in to start the academy. ¯It's early days, but we've started off well - I saw the U18s beat Newport in the FA Youth Cup and they were impressive.

“The idea is that the youth teams play with the same philosophy as the first team - you get the ball down and pass it. So it's just the start - but I believe in young players and I know just how vital they will be for the future of this football club.”

Forest Green chairman Dale Vince welcomed the partnership.

He said: “Our work at Forest Green Rovers up until now has focussed on achieving sustainability in two principle areas - financially and ecologically.

“But there's a third aspect, equally important for the long term and that's football.

“Sustainability in football requires the generation of our own talent -we need to grow our own, and that's what this initiative, our academy in partnership with SGS, is about.”