Andy Waterworth is the new head of the Irish FA JD Academy in collaboration with UEFA.
Waterworth succeeds Jim Magilton, who left the role last year to join Dundalk FC.
The Irish FA-run JD Academy, which is based at Ulster University’s Jordanstown campus and is fully endorsed by European football’s governing body, is Northern Ireland’s only full-time residential academy for elite young footballers.
The new head of academy has been embracing coaching since 2002 and has been working full-time as an Irish FA coach educator in recent years.
“It is an honour and a privilege to have landed this role,” said Waterworth. “When I went into full time football years ago, the ‘off the pitch’ aspect was something I struggled with. The academy is perfect and ideal for young players who want to play in clubs across the UK and Ireland, or in NIFL clubs, that they are prepared for the game on the pitch and off it as well.
“The feedback we get from clubs is that players that come from the academy are well prepared and well rounded, and that is a success story for us. We have so much talent here and great work is taking place right across the country. It is my job to further this by getting out there and telling people who we are and what we do.
“I’ve tasted life as a player and as a coach, and this is a role I’ve been preparing for my whole life.”
The 35-year-old first earned a coaching qualification back in 2002, attaining a Level 1 certificate (now National Coaching Certificate). He has been progressing up the coaching ladder ever since, completing his UEFA Pro Licence last year.
Waterworth, who played for Northern Ireland at both U19 and U21 level, is still one of the Irish League’s top strikers. He signed for Glenavon back in May following an eight-year goal and trophy-laden spell at Linfield.
It is an honour and a privilege to have landed this role
The former Kilmore Rec, Ards, Lisburn Distillery, Hamilton Academical, Glentoran and Linfield forward has notched up more than 200 goals in the Irish League.
Northern Ireland senior men’s team manager Ian Baraclough said: “This is a great appointment. As well as being a good coach he is a sound communicator and has solid links with many of the players already.
“He knows the direction of travel the association wants to take in regard to youth development and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson said: “The future of the academy is in good hands. Andy is passionate about the game and in particular bringing through new talent. We can’t wait for him to get started.”
Aaron Hughes, the Irish FA’s Elite Football Development Consultant, described it as “a fantastic appointment for us”.
“Andy stood out in the interviews for the role. He has lots of great ideas and a real desire to take things forward. Naturally, I will help him in any way I can,” he added.
And former Northern Ireland international Gareth McAuley, who is a coach with the U19s and U17s, called it “a brilliant appointment”.