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Manchester City Football School Kicks off at Aiglon this Term

Manchester City Football School Kicks off at Aiglon this Term
Manchester City Football School Kicks off at Aiglon this Term

After an illustrious professional footballing career — including stints at the top flight in the English Premier League and international duties for the Republic of Ireland — Gareth Whalley knew what he wanted his next move to be. “As a football player, I’d developed a deep understanding of the game, especially its tactical side, so I’d always thought I’d enjoy coaching,” he remembers. 

In 2009, when an opportunity came up to join the youth coaching team at Crewe Alexandra (UK), the club where he’d started his career as a young boy, he jumped on it. A little over two years later, he joined the Manchester City Football Club (MCFC) coaching team, where he took on a range of roles, including coaching the under-12s team that produced football superstars like Phil Foden. “Many of the boys from that team have gone on to play first team football at various levels around the UK and Europe,” Mr Whalley says.

It’s this experience he’s excited to bring to the Swiss Alps as a full-time, on-site coach at Aiglon College in the recently launched on campus Manchester City Football School, a one-of-a-kind partnership with Manchester City Football Club (MCFC). “When the chance to join Aiglon came up, it was crystal clear for me,” Mr Whalley says. “I knew about the school’s ethos, and it ties perfectly to both how I think children should be brought up and educated, and to the holistic nature of the curriculum we’ve developed at the Manchester City Football School.”

The programme — the only one of its kind in Europe — will offer every Aiglonian the opportunity to get a world-class football education on campus, tailored to their specific needs and interests. “The curriculum caters to all different levels,” Mr Whalley explains. “For example, it starts with what we call Move to Play, which is the very basics for those who have maybe never kicked a ball before, and it goes all the way up to Play to Perform, aimed at more experienced players who understand the nuances of the game.”

As well as getting coached in football, students will learn about nutrition, training and recovery, the mindset it takes for top athletes to succeed, and a plethora of other topics. “It was a non-negotiable that these elements be included in the programme,” says Danny Thomson, Deputy Head of Physical Education (PE) and Sport at Aiglon College. While students will get an unrivaled opportunity to be coached in Manchester City’s unique playing style, this isn’t about developing footballers, Mr Thomson points out. “It’s about developing people. All the issues that students will be learning about and encountering on the football pitch are ones they will at some point come up against in their lives. This programme is about giving them the right tools in their arsenal to deal with those issues when they do arise.”

In addition to the on-campus football coaching and classroom-based curriculum, a range of off-campus activities will help round out the programme. Over the next five years, more than 30 trips are planned. For example, in February 2024, a boys’ team and girls’ team will have the chance to travel to Abu Dhabi (UAE) to take part in a football tournament that will bring together competitors from schools around the world. More trips — to Manchester City Football Group Clubs in New York City, Melbourne, Yokohama and Bahia — will take place over the coming years. And of course, similar to the campus-based curriculum, the trips are about more than just football. “One of the trips is called the Leadership Institute,” explains Mr Thomson. “We’ll select three students to take part in this two-week immersive leadership and business course. They’ll be based at Salford University and will visit Manchester City’s training ground to meet people from the business side of the club and do workshops on topics like sports law.”

The partnership offers unparalleled opportunities not just to current Aiglon students, but also to staff, alumni, and the broader community. For example, in 2024, the Aiglon Summer School programme will offer a parallel programme and students will be able to experience Aiglon’s football programme. And several of the planned trips will be open to Aiglon alumni, such as a visit to Manchester next April. “It’s a three-day trip that will include private tours of the Etihad training ground, dinner in the first-team dressing room with the CEO of the club and a Manchester City legend, and a training session,” says Mr Thomson. “It’s a great opportunity to keep our alumni connected to the school and make them feel part of it.” 

This is only just the start, and the team behind the programme have big ambitions. “From the launch year, it’s going to build and build and get bigger and bigger,” says Mr Thomson. He’s confident the programme will have a similar effect on students. “It’s going to teach Aiglonians to dream big and help them see that nothing is impossible.”

  • Danny Thomson
  • Football
  • Manchester City Football School
  • Summer School


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