Town striker Ben Stephens selected for Jamie Vardy’s V9 Academy

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Ben Stephens is one of 42 applicants heading to Manchester City's Etihad Campus for the 2018 V9 Academy programme. Photo: Steve Wood

STRATFORD Town striker Ben Stephens is set to join Jamie Vardy’s V9 Academy this summer.

The academy, founded by the England and Leicester City front man, was designed to open a pathway for non-league players who want to reach the Football League.

Stephens is one of just 42 successful applicants, who will be split into three teams of 14 players for a five-day training camp at Manchester City’s Eithad Campus in June.

The programme will conclude with matches watched by scouts from Premier League and EFL clubs.

Five players earned professional deals from the 2017 camp and the Premier League winner is hoping to at least match that number this time around.

Jamie Vardy.

“We set a target and we hit it but there is loads and loads of talent out there,” said Vardy, whose own rags-to-riches story from non-league to England international will inspire thousands of lower league players.

“We have opened it up to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales this time as well to showcase more talent and give more players an opportunity.

“We are aiming to get four players signed up professionally again and I’m over the moon about that but hopefully we will get more.”

The 2018 camp will be filmed as a fly-on-the-wall Sky Sports documentary, giving a behind-the-scenes look into how coaching, sport science, fitness methodology, talent ID and mental training is carried out at the top level.

Stephens, who scored 25 goals in 46 starts for Town last season, looks certain to leave Stratford this summer following recent trials at Coventry City, Ipswich Town and most recently with Birmingham City.