STRATFORD Town’s player of the season Ben Stephens will get the chance to move closer to a dream move to the pro ranks via Jamie Vardy’s V9 Academy.
The Town top goalscorer has been selected among 42 players from the non-League ranks to join the Vardy training camp.
Leicester City and England striker Vardy made his own way from non-League – starting with Stocksbridge Park Steels – to stardom and the V9 Academy offers a route for players to make the same route.
Twenty-year-old Stephens, who scored 25 goals in 2017/18, will join a week-long training camp at Manchester City’s Etihad complex at the start of June.
The group will be put through their paces by expert coaches, working on fitness, nutrition and psychology and then play in a series of matches in front of an array of talent-spotters from Premier League, Championship and League One and Two clubs.
Last season, five of the players in the inaugural campaign earned full-time deals with League clubs.
The V9 Academy will also be filmed as a Sky Sports documentary and give a behind the scenes look into how coaching, sport science, fitness methodology, talent ID and mental training is carried out at the top level.
Carl Adams, who signed Stephens from Kettering Town and pushed him into a forward role this term, said the youngster thoroughly deserved his chance.
“Ben has had a fantastic season and he deserves everything he gets,” said the former Town boss. “I’m sure he will get his move into the pro ranks.”
Stephens has already had spells with Ipswich Town and Birmingham City – training and featuring for both Championship clubs’ U23 teams.