FOLLOWING promotion to the Football League, head of Forest Green youth development, Scott Bartlett, is relishing the chance to have a "bigger and better academy".

Bartlett has been able to build a strong backroom, naming Chris Barker,37, as his academy assistant and boss of the Under-18s, after the two previously worked together at Weston-super-Mare. 

Barker enjoyed a stellar playing career and once made a £600,000 move to Cardiff from Barnsley in 2002. He also played for Stoke and QPR.

Since then he’s gained his UEFA A Licence and been caretaker manager and then assistant manager at Aldershot Town before becoming Bartlett’s player/assistant manager at Weston.

Bartlett said: "We lost Wade Elliott last year  for the right reasons, he went off to Stoke, a real good progression for him.

"We moved quickly in the summer to get Chris in. I worked closely with him at Weston last year and we share similar views on the game. As a player he had a decade in the Championship. We have a trust and he is a really good coach with good morals."

Elsewhere, club secretary James Mooney has taken on a head of operations post, which will boost the academy structure from within the club. The continued academy partnership with South Gloucestershire & Stroud College will see Vicky French take a full-time role at The New Lawn with a remit to make sure the academy players achieve academically alongside their football development.

Physio Megan Hodun has now joined the staff in a full-time post and will work under first-team sports therapist Ian Weston and physio Joe Baker

Promotion to the Football League means the Academy will play in the EFL Youth Alliance, facing the likes of  Oxford, Plymouth, Exeter, Swindon, Cheltenham and Portsmouth in the South West Region.

Significant new funding will also be available to the club following promotion which will greatly enhance the experience of the young players.

Bartlett added: “Moving to the EFL has really helped us to grow the Academy and will enable us to push it forward even more and have a bigger and better system.

“The lads will have a great opportunity to play against some fantastic football clubs and it can only benefit us because we’re playing with and against better players, in better facilities and with full time staff. So for a young player now, it’s an exciting time to be a part of the club.”