Hartpury set to cheer on current and former academy captains in the Emirates FA Cup


Three generations of Hartpury football team captains will play in the First Round proper for their external non-league teams, when it gets underway on Saturday 5 November.

Their appearances in the Emirates FA Cup are another endorsement for Hartpury University and Hartpury College’s football academy that provides students with coaching and support alongside their studies. The three players paid tribute to the Hartpury football academy, discussing how it’s helped them to enjoy success in the game.

Spencer Hamilton will captain Chippenham Town FC when they face Lincoln on Saturday (3pm KO). Spencer, who is currently Head Football Coach for Hartpury College and a Hartpury University graduate, completed the MSc Professional Development (Coaching Science) in 2019 after achieving a 1st class BSc (Hons) Physical Education and School Sports degree.

Spencer said: “Joining Hartpury at 18-years-old was hugely beneficial for my football development. It allowed me to continue to progress and learn with high-quality coaching to give me the best possible opportunity to play football at a good level but also enjoy the process.

“I loved the professionalism of the programme replicating some of the top academies in the country. Having setbacks at 18 is mentally tough in football, but Hartpury helped me realise what a fantastic opportunity it was to join the programme. It’s allowed me to continue my football journey and take my next career steps. Training and studying with like-minded people made the experience so much more enjoyable.”

Tom Handley, current captain of the Hartpury University BUCS 1st team, will play for Merthyr Town FC against Buxton on Saturday (also 3pm KO). Tom graduated from the BA (Hons) Sports Business Management at Hartpury University and is currently studying an MSc Sports Management degree.

Tom said: “After being released by Cheltenham Town FC at the end of my scholarship, Hartpury provided me a platform to continue playing and training in a full-time football programme whilst studying for a degree. The university’s facilities, coaches and lecturers are second to none. This has supported me in continuing to develop my football and physical attributes, whilst also playing externally in addition to being selected for the England Men’s University squad for football.”

Nick Grimes will captain Taunton Town FC against Milton Keynes (MK) Dons on Saturday (3pm KO). Nick graduated from Hartpury University in 2020, awarded 1st class honours from the BSc (Hons) Strength and Conditioning degree.

Nick said: “Hartpury helped me develop not only as a player but also as a person. They provided me with the tools to develop my character and personality both on and off the pitch. The quality training programme helped to keep me sharp and develop my game, whilst helping with my progression to the men’s game with their links in non-league. There is a clear pathway through Hartpury leading to a successful professional or semi-professional career as shown by many players over the years. I came through the Hartpury ranks as a young boy and couldn’t be happier with how I left as a man.”

Chris Knowles, Senior Football Academy Manager and MSc Coaching Science alumnus at Hartpury University and Hartpury College, said: “It’s been great to watch these players develop with us and then watch their continued progress for their respective teams. All excelled in the classroom and on the pitch and have continued to do so. We understand we are a steppingstone, and our aim is to help these lads to realise their potential. We look forward to seeing the results this weekend and hope the boys can go through to the next round whilst we have one eye on our FA Vase fixture on Saturday 12 November.”

Hartpury has an outstanding track record of developing players as well as preparing them for a career beyond football. Its football programme is among the best in the UK with students receiving high-level coaching and support to achieve peak performance alongside their A-levels, college diploma, undergraduate or postgraduate degree. This strong track record is evident in our strong graduate employability rate, with 97% in employment, further study or other purposeful activity (Graduate Outcomes 2022).

In 2020, Hartpury launched its first-ever non-League football club side, Hartpury University FC, aimed at providing students, staff and alumni with further opportunities to continue their football development or become professional footballers. The squad comprises players, staff and alumni aged 16 and upwards.

A goal scored by Ben Baxter during Hartpury University FC’s game against Southam United on Saturday (31 Oct) has proven a social media hit with 43,000 views and counting!

In 2022, the team was crowned champions of the Herefordshire FA County League Premier Division, winning promotion to Hellenic League One. In the same season, the team also lifted the Herefordshire County Cup.

Men’s football is one of 10 competitive sports academies at Hartpury, supporting students in their chosen discipline. Our campus creates a professional sports environment complete with facilities including a £10 million Sports Academy with human performance and biomechanics laboratories, gyms, 3G and grass pitches.

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