BRADFORD (Park Avenue) owner Gareth Roberts insists their fanbase is on course to get younger, and says the club’s dedication to academy football and junior teams feeds into that.

The National League North side have been criticised in the past for not focusing on the next generation, but Roberts feels the club are now putting that right.

Speaking to the T&A in a sit-down interview about whether the club can attract new supporters, he said: “The way to do that is to build our junior section. We now have four professional coaches in there, more than some professional clubs have.

“That area is growing really fast and it’s because we’ve got a 3G pitch that the first team plays on, and it’s attractive for youngsters to come and play on the same pitch as the big guys.

“This serves all of the kids that are in other clubs, they come along and get the benefit of professional coaches and their sessions.

“We want to build up that big fanbase (from this) and eventually we’ll see a new generation of Avenue fans.”

He added: “We have high hopes for the academy, to get to the point where we have real quality in there.

“We’ve vastly improved on that front, but there’s still room to grow.

“We’d like to see some of our younger players make the team on a regular basis, which will help us out, and we’re picking up youngsters from other programmes that haven’t quite made it, and they just need a bit more coaching and playing time.

“They get a taste of man’s football and we can attract them, hopefully in the coming season too.”

Expanding on what’s new at the club and that focus on youth, Roberts said: “We’ve put in the new hospitality block, which is finally opening right now about a year behind schedule, which also has new changing rooms for the juniors.

“We’re seeing real participation too, with a lot of people coming to the ground every day.

“We’ve got three ladies teams now, with Bradford City Ladies down here playing at Horsfall as well. Those links with other clubs are growing too.

“We’re seeing lots of other clubs rent space on the pitch, including Bradford City Juniors.

“Our own academy has grown to 50 students and it’ll be over 80 for next year.

“We’ve turned what was a problem for the city of Bradford into a real sports hub for the future.

“We need more disabled facilities and more ladies’ toilets, but I was very pleased to see a lot of families in the ground at our home game with Darlington last weekend, which is what we want.

He also claimed: “We’re not following the same path as say a Bradford City, who are trying to be successful just on the pitch, we want to be successful off it too.”

And as for getting people to the ground, Roberts said: “We want to refurbish our café, so we’re able to do our famous chips and serve them quickly.

“We’ve improved the bar area, we’ve got a beer garden and our new hospitality suite, so if anybody wants to book an event, call the stadium because we’d love to put it on.

“It’s a nicer experience than it used to be at the ground. The weather is still Bradford weather though, and if we could move the island a thousand miles further south, I think that would probably help.”

Roberts even talked about getting famous local faces, like James Milner, down to Horsfall to help promote the club, saying: “We’ve got a Bradford Schools Tournament coming up, and we’d like to do others, and have sponsors for those tournaments.

“We’d love to have some of these footballers come and be a figurehead for us at these events.

“That’d be great as people would love to meet them and kids would get to meet their heroes.

“People need to know more about Avenue, there are people living a mile away who don’t know the ground is there and what’s going on.

“What we need to try and do is more mail outs, drop things by people, and of course we’d like more T&A articles about specific events.

“That all needs to be out in the community.”

And on the first team’s make-up, he added: “Mark Bower and Danny Boshell have done well to get us where we are, and you only have to look at Guiseley.

“They’ve got a decent set up, with good crowds and a niche of a following within their own town.

“But they don’t have those facilities like we do with the 3G, and there isn’t that focal point, as I think they might train in another city.

“We want Bradford lads coming in from Bradford clubs, not just to bring in pros from up and down the country.

“Someone like (Avenue veteran) Adam Nowakowski really represents the spirit of what we’re all about.”