WOKING FC goalkeeper Brandon Hall has been selected for an elite football academy spearheaded by England striker Jamie Vardy, writes Andy Fitzsimons.
Hall (pictured), 24, will join 41 other handpicked non-league footballers playing at steps 1 to 5 of the national game to feature in a new V9 Academy documentary, which will be screened on Sky Sports in September 2017.
And for the former Charlton Athletic scholar – who will be out of contract with The Cards next month (May 2017) – his road to fame and fortune could be just around the corner.
The V9 Academy was principally born out of a conversation between Vardy, who has personally funded the initiative, his agent, and his wife Rebekah last season.
The trio wanted to give something back to the non-league game following the Leicester City striker’s meteoric rise from Stocksbridge Park Steels in 2010 – to winning the Barclays Premier League with The Foxes in 2016.
The six-part fly-on-the-wall series could well be the lucky break that Hall needs to showcase his abilities and take his game to the next level.
And with one or more professional contracts likely to be tabled as a result of the documentary, Hall’s time at The Laithwaite Community Stadium may have run its course.
The Woking shot-stopper has already made over 100 appearances for Hayes & Yeading United, Ebbsfleet United and Woking within the two-tier National League.
He has also been selected to represent England national football C team on no less than four occasions; most recently in the 2-1 win over Estonia U23s (November 2016) in the International Challenge Trophy.
Hall applied to the V9 Academy while on national duty – much to the delight of England’s goalkeeping coach Mick Payne – who is reportedly a big admirer of the Woking shot-stopper and his intellectual prowess – both on and off the field. Therefore, selecting Hall for the documentary was considered to be “a no-brainer”.
On Sunday, 4 June, Hall will travel to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium and training complex to rub shoulders with the England striker for a week, as well as several other notable names within the English game.
These include David Coles (Bristol City), Chris Ramsey and Simon Ireland (QPR), Alan Stubbs (Rotherham United), Travis Binnion (Sheffield United) and Robbie Stockdale (Sunderland).
Throughout the programming schedule, players will be observed on their physical, psychological, tactical and technical attributes, from which all players will be given specific feedback to work on.
Hall and his fellow V9 teammates will be split into three squads of 14, with no elimination throughout the series.
Players will partake in a number of inter-squad games on one of the days and three showcase games on Friday, 9 June – the final day of filming. These all provide a shop-window opportunity for League clubs, as well as other non-league clubs, to observe and speak to players with a view to signing.
Speaking exclusively to the News and Mail, Hall said: “I first found out about the V9 Academy while I was away with England C last year.
“Some of the lads were being shadowed by a film crew, which prompted me to ask a few questions. It was only then that I was briefed about the format of the Academy, which made me apply when I returned home.
“I didn’t know too much about the filming side of things back then, all I knew is that it was called the Vardy Academy, or the V9 Academy, at the Etihad.
“It’s essentially five days of elite training; and if any comes of it, brilliant. Otherwise, I can put it down to being a great experience and having the chance to do it.
“However, the more I’ve heard about it since, the more exciting the opportunity is,” he added.
Although Hall has largely remained an understudy to the more experienced Michael Poke this season, he remains entirely grateful to Woking boss Garry Hill for giving him the opportunity to play in the National League top-flight.
“There’s more pressure to perform in the National League,” explained Hall. “When you factor in the crowds and the likes of BT Sport covering the games, it all helps going into the Vardy (V9) Academy.
“I don’t really have any regrets about not being offered a professional contract by Charlton when I was younger. I believe it’s been by far the best thing that’s happened to me.
“Part of me thinks that everything happens for a reason, and that I have simply taken a different path to hopefully achieve the same objective.”
Hall, who is in the final year of his Business Management degree, is likely to be the pick of the crop for talent scouts across the UK and abroad when he dons his V9 training gear in seven weeks’ time.
And with the Woking man a year younger than Vardy when he made his Football League debut for Leicester at the age of 25, the glass ceiling has now been removed to help those wanting to make the step up.