MK Dons are pleased to announce the appointment of Ben Smith as the Football Club’s new Academy Manager.
Smith, formerly Academy Manager at Crystal Palace, boasts a wealth of experience in youth development, working for clubs such as Palace, Luton Town, Norwich City as well as recently, supporting academies as a Regional Manager at the EFL.
He will join the Club from the EFL in May, replacing Jon Goodman who served as Academy Manager between March 2019 and December 2022.
“I have lived in and around Milton Keynes for almost 20 years and so I have seen the Club establish itself in the community, evolve as a football club and develop local footballers,” Smith said on his appointment.
“In my previous roles in professional football, I’ve been able to support good practice and challenge areas that require attention and development. Taking these experiences back into my local football club, that has an affinity with youth development and accelerated pathway, was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss out on.”
He continued: “The focus for me, and for the Academy now, is to provide a development programme for local young players that allow them to be the best version of themselves.
“The Academy have some really good multi-disciplinary staff, so we will continue to provide support for parents and players across these disciplines. The Academy will also work closely with the SET where we can share best practice, utilise experiences across departments and create a recruitment pathway for young people from the area.”
Smith began beginning his career within the Community and Schools programme at Luton Town, working in schools as well as on holiday courses and college development programmes.
He gained a teaching qualification at MK College whilst working for the Prince’s Trust and then joined Norwich City as Head of Education and Coaching in the schoolboy programme.
After three years in Norfolk, Smith took up a position at Crystal Palace as Head of Education and played a key role in setting up a full-time academic and football programme with a local school that allowed players at Under14s – Under-16s to train everyday alongside their school curriculum.
Smith was made Academy Manager at Crystal Palace after just 12 months in Croydon and maintained that role, while coaching with the Under-18s, across the next six years.
Recently, Smith has been working with the EFL as a Regional Manager, supporting clubs in Leadership & Management, Coaching, Pathway, Performance Support and Player Care. He will conclude this role in May and join MK Dons as Academy Manager.
Sporting Director Liam Sweeting said of the appointment: “After what has been an extensive recruitment process, I am absolutely delighted that we have been successful in recruiting Ben Smith, who is a superb fit for the brief we had for the role of Academy Manager.
“Ben has a wealth of successful experience within youth development and not only shares in our vision for the Academy but has some really exciting ideas on ways we can get achieve it.
"Ben also has the advantage of having a thorough knowledge of our Academy, as he joins us from the EFL where his role as regional manager saw him work closely with our staff across our Academy programme.
“I am excited to support Ben in this new challenge and look forward to him joining in May.”
Sweeting added: “I must also express a huge thank you to all our Academy staff, who have taken on additional responsibilities and work load for the period of time that we were without this position.
“Our full-time staff and part-time coaches have gone over and above to ensure our programme continues without any affect to the on-going development and safety of all our players in the Academy.
“Young players and giving opportunities is at the heart of how we operate at the club, and together with Ben we hope to continually drive Milton Keynes talent towards our First Team.”