Ex-Sunderland man completes Plymouth Argyle youth coaching team
PLYMOUTH Argyle's new youth coaching structure has been completed with the appointment of former Sunderland and Bristol City midfielder Gary Owers.
The 43-year-old will start at Home Park on July 1 and work closely with academy manager Kevin Hodges.
Argyle now comply with the requirement to have four full-time youth staff as part of their intended category three status under the new Elite Player Performance Plan, which becomes active on August 1.
In addition to being academy manager, Hodges is the lead coach for 16 to 21-year-old age group and Owers will assist him in that role.
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Owers will also take charge of the Pilgrims' under-16s team.
Until recently, Owers was the under-21 development coach at Bristol City, and prior to that he was the assistant manager at League Two club Aldershot Town.
The new youth coaching structure at Home Park also includes former Pilgrims striker Ian Stonebridge and Phil Stokes.
Stonebridge, 30, will be the lead coach for the 12 to 16-year-old age group, and assist Owers with the under-16s team.
The former England under-18 international, whose playing career was cut short by injury, also starts work at Argyle on July 1.
Stokes will oversee the nine to 11-year-old age group, as well as assisting Hodges with the under-18s team.
Owers has the coveted UEFA 'A' licence coaching qualifications, while Stonebridge and Stokes have their 'B' licence.
The EPPP will see all Premier and Football League clubs reorganised into a four-tier academy system and comply with requirements on issues such as player contact, staffing levels and budgets.
It has led to Argyle doubling their full-time youth coaching staff from two to four.
Hodges, the Pilgrims' record appearance holder, first came across Owers during their playing days.
Then, when Hodges had a spell as football development officer for the Somerset FA, he and Owers teamed up.
Hodges said: "We did a lot of coaching work at grassroots level, with young kids and disability groups.
"Then he became the manager of Bath City, so we linked a lot of things in around that area.
"We have kept in touch ever since, and that's how this has all come about really."
Owers played at right-back for Sunderland in the 1992 FA Cup final, when they lost to Liverpool.
He spent seven years with the Wearside club and made 320 first team appearances, before moving to Bristol City in 1994.
Hodges, 52, has taken over as Argyle's academy manager after coaching the club's under-18s for the past two seasons.
Former Pilgrims head of youth development Gordon Bennett retired at the end of last month.