Albion have appointed Leigh Downing as the club’s Lead U18s Professional Development Phase Coach.
Downing will manage the Baggies U18s side and oversee the development of players aged between 16-18, many of which he has already built a strong bond with during his many committed years at The Hawthorns.
The 2022/23 campaign marks Leigh’s 13th year coaching and the 33-year-old has benefitted from strong family roots in the professional game with uncle, Keith - a former academy and first-team coach at Albion - currently working as joint Assistant Head Coach at Birmingham City.
“I’m delighted to get this role and am looking forward to working with this group of players,” said Downing.
“This is my 13th year coaching at Albion and every two or three years I’ve progressed into the next role at the academy.
“Since I got released here as a scholar, I was brought into the coaching setup and started as the Assistant Foundation Phase Coach, then went onto be Lead Foundation Coach, Assistant Youth Development Phase Coach, Lead YDP Coach and Assistant PDP Coach.
“So I’ve done every coaching role up until Lead U18s which I am now and it’s worked out quite well.
“My best days playing were as a scholar at this football club, so I know how much the lads enjoy it.
“This is the next step for me now to progress further and when I first started coaching, the current group of U18s were very young and in a way, they’ve followed me on the journey. I’ve got good relationships with all of the players and the staff who are now working in that phase as well.
“I want us to be as competitive as we can this season and in the division we play in, we know it’s going to be tough. Ultimately, if we get lads playing for Bealey in the 23s and even training with the first team then that’s the end goal we’re all striving to achieve.”
Academy Manager Richard Stevens added: “Leigh has great experience as a coach at this football club. He’s worked with different age groups, assisted Peter Gilbert over the last three years and has earned the right to take the lead role.
“He will be really good for the players; he is a meticulous coach, has a good eye for the game and he’ll only benefit the programme for our youngsters. We’re delighted to have him in this role.”