Paul Harkness on Badshot Lea and bringing Pulse Academy to Woodley


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The start of the new football season tends doesn’t quite coincide with the start of a school year, but for college style football courses it’s time to get start getting new pupils enrolled for the next twelve months.

Football in Berkshire has spoken to one such course opening for the first time in Woodley – Pulse Academy – and found out what it was all about, why ability isn’t top of the list and how education and life skills are just as important as tactical awareness.

Tom Canning spoke to Paul Harkness who runs the courses and found out about his own career, a lot about Badshot Lea and exactly what you can expect if you enrol.

More details on Pulse Academy Woodley here.

Hello Paul! We’re talking about yourself and Pulse Academy this morning. First of all though I wanted to ask do you ever get confused with former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Paul Harkness.

Well there’s a few Harkness’s, there was Steve Harkness at Liverpool..

..It is at this point your interviewer realises he had been thinking of former Liverpool midfielder Steve Harkness..

There was a John Harkes who played for Sheffield Wednesday, an American fella but I don’t know of any other Harkness’s who played football or are involved in football but I am sure there are a few.

This has got off to a good start. You had a bit of a career yourself, certainly fairly locally.

Yeah, I played at Camberley Town in my teenage years, I went to a few clubs like Walton & Hersham when they were an Isthmian Premier club. Played a bit at Basingstoke Town for a period and then I went and played in New Zealand for awhile. When I came back I played at Farnborough for a good seven or eight seasons so that was where I really played in my prime.

Paul Harkness at Farnborough. Photo: Get Hampshire.

Then I finished my career playing for Fleet Town and then a little bit locally with Sandhurst Town and Eversley so yeah, I’ve been a fairly local player over the years.

Who did you play for in New Zealand?

I played for North Shore United who I actually went back two years ago and went over to manage them and last season we successfully gained promotion back to the Premier Division in Auckland so I got promotion there as a player and as a coach.

They couldn’t hang on to you though?

No, I came back to the UK and I’m involved in coaching at Badshot Lea, coaching the first team. Gav Smith and Dave Ford are the joint managers and there’s Danny Bailey who’s an assistant to them. Obviously my day job is coaching at Pulse but I am also involved with non league football.

Just before we talk about Pulse, Badshot Lea have obviously got a new ground. What’s that like? It’s not a club we cover on our site but they are in the Combined Counties Premier so Ascot United will be there this season and no doubt there will be some cup ties. What do you make of the ground?

It’s a fantastic facility. It’s been a long time coming for the club. People involved there have worked tirelessly for years and they’ve had ten years of ground sharing with various local clubs but now to have their own facility and for it to be such a lovely facility as well in Wrecclesham means the club has a good future and is on a sound footing.

It’s taken a long time – they’re on the site of Farnham Rugby Club who haev moved. Getting it through with planning and funding, it’s taken many years and a lot of hard work to get to that stage and between that they’ve had promotions and relegation’s and now back in the Premier. Now they can move forward and maybe now move on to step 4.

The club is really on the up.

Let’s talk about Pulse Academy and Woodley. What is Pulse Academy?

It’s an independant football education and training programme for 16 to 19 year olds. It’s government funded in partnership with SCL Education.

It’s for young aspiring football people, not necessarily just players but coaches and people who want to work in the industry.

Mark Anderson and Pulse Academy coaches.

It’s an opportunity for them to work on those skills in football, get a good education and get a career in football or sport but also just giving young people a firm footing for a future in industry and life!

It’s like sixth form college but run remotely out of various sites that we run. We’ve got three site, Frimley, Chertsey and now Woodley which is new this year.

It’s something we’ve been running for about eight years and it’s been very successful, it’s grown quite quickly and we’ve got a number of students who have gone to America for scholarships, gone overseas but also out there working in the industry or working full time.

I noticed one young lad on your twitter account was celebrating becoming a police officer

Aaron Woodger yeah.

It’s not just training for football, it’s training for the real world. Hopefully football is the vehicle to get those experiences under their belt. We do a lot working on respect, eye contact, shaking hands. Skills that are needed if you are out working that sometimes I feel at schools and colleges get neglected. There’s so much focus on academia and actually we’re not only working on that at Pulse but the skills people need for when they are out in the work place.

So you’ve got a new course setting up in Woodley and you are looking for people to come and join you?

Yes, we still have availability on the course for September. We’re looking to reach out to everyone in the BErkshire aread that might be interested in doing our course.

It’s not an elitist course. We’re not looking for someone who is necessarily the best player, we’re looking for someone who’s got a passion for football, who’s interested in working in the sports or football industry.

That’s the type of person we’re trying to reach out to.

Talk me through what a year on the course would be? What does a Monday to Friday look like?

Well it is Monday to Friday, term time the same as if you were at a sixth form college. The working day is somewhere between 9.30am and 3pm. Our day is split evenly between time in the classroom studying for the BTEC qualification we offer and the other time is spent out on the training pitch working practically. Working on technique, tactical and fitness in preparation for games.

We have a games program we run alongside the course so it’s a full time program between September and June like any other out there that any college would run.

What sort of coaches do you have? Who’s doing the coaching? Who’s doing the teaching?

I am one of the coaches. We also have another coach called Dan Framp who plays for Fleet Town. He’s been with us for six years and came through the program as a student.

He impressed us so we gave him a full time job!

SCL Education are based in Sandhurst and look after all our education. All the teaching, all the qualifications are managed by them. Even if you need to resit Maths or English GCSE’s which is now a government requirement, that is all managed by SCL.

They are the number one sports education provider in the UK. A very good company to work with and we’ve partnered with them for quite some time. I can’t speak highly enough of them in terms of the people who are involved there and the positive affect they have on the students as well as the coaches.

Pulse Academy has paid a small fee in support of Football in Berkshire for this article. Visit for more information about the course.

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