Lee Perry | Dereham Education Soccer Academy | The Journey | Success stories | A New Era

Take a look at our latest interview with Lee Perry who has been at the heart of the success on the pitch and off the pitch from day one.

A New Era

'We’re now looking at a new era with new classrooms that have been built this year and some potentially very exciting news in the next 12 months'

You will take plenty away from the interview the key takeaways we took were.

- Hardwork

- Desire

- Creating opportunities for ALL

- Dedication

- 36 Players have progressed through DESA to represent Dereham Town First Team

What is your overall passion and how does this affect positively on Dereham Education Soccer Academy? (DESA)

My overall passion is to see people develop and achieve their goals. To be able to help people develop academically, as a footballer and a person and go on to achieve their goals is what makes us all proud at DESA.

What is DESA and when was it established?

Dereham Education & Soccer Academy was established in 2013 by myself (Lee Perry), Tom Parke and Matt Henman. It is a partnership between Unity Education Trust and Dereham Town FC and is based at Aldiss Park.

How long are the courses you run for the students at DESA? What are the modules the students cover academically?

The students enrol on a 2 year Level 3 National Extended Diploma in Sporting Excellence and Performance, students can also study an additional A level alongside this qualification.

Some of the modules studied are: Anatomy and Physiology, Nutrition, Psychology, Sports Coaching and Careers in Sport.

As a percentage, what is the comparison on the practical side towards football to the academic side in the classroom?

The guys will train for at least 2 hours a day and this includes Technical and Tactical football sessions, Strength and Conditioning in the gym, Futsal and Performance Analysis. The rest of the day the guys will be in the classroom studying for their BTEC qualification. There’s a lot of cross over between the practical and classroom learning. It allows us to show how the theory is put into practice and link to their performance in football.

In terms of football the students represent Dereham Town Football Club. What football league/cups do DESA compete in and do the students have opportunities to progress to play in the senior first team?

We have opportunities for our players to play at a range of different levels to suit their development needs. We have teams playing Saturdays in the U18 Junior Premier League,

Thursday night in the U18 Thurlow Nunn flood lit league, Wednesdays in the Category 1 English Colleges League and Category 2 Colleges League and cups.

Dereham Town FC have always looked to its academy for players and we are proud to say that 36 players have progressed to the first team since 2013.

How many years has DESA been on tour to Las Vegas? Could you tell us what you do when you're in Las Vegas in terms of football?

DESA first went on tour to the USA in 2015 and has been every year since. This is an 11 day tour that includes:

· 5 nights in Las Vegas playing in the Las Vegas Players Showcase event. This event is a great opportunity for our students who are wanting to gain a scholarship in the USA to be seen by college coaches. This is a 3 day event playing against teams from all over the world.

· 3 nights in San Diego, this is an chance for the boys to experience a different culture and

see some of the opportunities available to them. We will visit and play a fixture against a NCAA college. They will be able to talk to players and coaches about life at a USA college (academics, coaching and progression opportunities)

· The tour will culminate with 3 nights in Los Angeles. We have a tour of Hollywood and Beverley Hills, watch a professional sport (this has previously been: LA Galaxy, LA Lakers, LA Clippers and LA Kings) and have a tour of the LA Galaxy ground finishing with a fixture against their academy or associate team. We have been lucky enough to meet Ashley Cole, Giovanni Dos Santos and even been coached by Steven Gerrard as part of this tour.

This is a great experience for our guys to explore different cultures and to open their eyes to opportunities in a different part of the world.

After students complete the DESA course, what is the next step for the students on their journey. What options and pathways can they choose to continue their development? (Education / football / work / experience)

We pride ourselves on making sure students follow their dreams and by the end of the 2 years if they are motivated we will have helped them on to the next step of their pathway to their career goal. This could be:

USA Scholarship, this includes playing and studying for a degree at a college in America.

University in the UK. Previous studies have included: Sports Analysis, Sports Psychology, Sports Coaching, Sport as a Business and Physiotherapy.

Apprenticeship in a career of their choice, this could be anything from accountancy to a plumber.

Full time employment examples include: Coaching with ICS Coaching, Estate Agent or Mortgage Broker.

The success story of Luke Milligan starting off playing in the youth team and ending up teaching at DESA is remarkable. Do stories like that make you proud and how did this come about?

This is a great story and we are extremely proud of the hard work and commitment Luke has shown to gain a position at DESA.

However this is one of so many brilliant stories and we love it when students come back to DESA and share their experiences with our current students.

Luke is a Dereham boy who attended Neatherd High School, his commitment to DESA was shown even before he left school by taking a day off to travel to Birmingham to watch us play at St Andrews (home of Birmingham FC) in the ECFA National College cup final. Luke worked hard to gain the GCSE grades needed to come to DESA. During Luke’s time at DESA he completed his Level 1 coaching and volunteered with Dereham Town youth where he helped to set up the DTFCY mini kickers. One of Luke’s key strengths was his willingness to take every opportunity that he could to learn and volunteered at every opportunity. When Luke finished his level 3 qualification he wanted to stay local so enrolled onto an online Football Coaching degree that allowed him to continue his education and development at Dereham Town FC. Luke’s enthusiasm to volunteer resulted in him gaining the trust of the football club to be offered the job of DTFC U18 manager. Luke worked closely with the DESA coaches to ensure we were challenging the players on a weekly basis to be the best they could. Luke came into DESA every day while studying his degree and this enabled him to get the experience needed on his CV for when a position eventually opened up at DESA. Luke started his role as a teacher and coach at DESA in September 2020 and has been absolutely brilliant, he’s currently completing his teacher training and will be qualified in 2022. Luke has shown that if you are willing to work hard EVERY DAY you will get your rewards.

What are the highlights and moments that you personally will remember about DESA so far?

We’ve all achieved so much together in the past 8 years but some of the football highlights would be playing at St Andrews in the ECFA cup final and training at St Georges Park the day before. Taking Peterborough United U18’s to extra time in the FA youth cup. Winning the Las Vegas Players Showcase and being coached by Steven Gerrard at LA Galaxy’s ground.

Also the fact 36 players have represented Norfolk U18’s and 3 have pulled on the 3 lions shirt and represented England Schools 36 players have progressed to Dereham Town FC first team.

Academically we have had 27 Norfolk scholars, this is recognition of learners who achieve top grades of Distinction in all units on their level 3 BTEC.

We’re now looking at a new era with new classrooms that have been built this year and some potentially very exciting news in the next 12 months.

The biggest achievement is all the guys that are now following their dreams and have jobs in an industry they are passionate about.

For anyone that wants to find out more about DESA please visit

You can also apply for DESA via this link.

Follow us on Twitter @DESAsoccer

Or watch players in action on our YouTube page

If you have any more questions please email Lee Perry at


We thank Lee Perry, The DESA Team, Dereham Town Youth and Dereham Town F.C for the impact they have had on Norfolk Football.

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