Meet the Team

Staff Profiles


Dave Cowling, Academy Director

Highly regarded by many Premier League clubs for his experience in youth development, Dave has unparalleled experience as a player and coach at all levels of the game. Dave started his career at Mansfield Town, before moving to Huddersfield Town, Reading and Scunthorpe United, making over 500 appearances as a professional football player.

Dave moved on to successfully manage several professional youth football academies for Bury, Doncaster Rovers and Darlington, as well as developing highly successful football development centres for Darlington College and Castle College. Dave’s track record in developing players at the highest level is unparalleled.

He has continued to work at the highest levels in professional youth football, working for The Premier League as a Staff Coach at The Premier League Exit Trials and as club scout for Southampton FC, Liverpool FC and currently, as Northern scout for Fulham FC.


Mick Buxton, Football Academy Technical Advisor

After playing at the highest level for both Burnley and Halifax Town, Mick turned to management and made a name for himself as a very successful manager of Huddersfield Town, Scunthorpe United and Sunderland. Following his successful management career, Mick worked for the Premier League, developing and monitoring the Academy system and is still involved with FA Committees.

Mick's reputation and standing in football, both in the UK and internationally, is second to none and we are proud to have him associated with our organisation.


Lee Cowling, Director of Football

Before his playing career ended unexpectedly due to injury, Lee was consistently rated as one of the leading players of his generation, playing for Nottingham Forest, under Brain Clough, Frank Clark, Stuart Pearce, and Ron Atkinson. He also represented England in the Under 18 squad alongside Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard and Emile Heskey.

Having had his playing career curtailed in his early twenties, Lee worked as an Academy coach at Middlesbrough FC, and helped to developed two leading College football development centres, winning championships and cups consistently. He is responsible for helping a large number of college football players to move back into the professional game.


John Buckley, Head Coach 

John’s exceptional football career saw him play for clubs, including Celtic, Partick Thistle, Doncaster Rovers, Leeds United, Leicester City and Rotherham United. John made over 350 professional appearances, playing with some of the best players in the country at the time - including: Charlie Nicholas (ex Arsenal/Scotland), Danny McGrain (Scotland), Mark Hughes, Gordon Strachan, Bryan Robson, Paul McGrath, Norman Whiteside and Gary Speed to name just a few.

John is a vastly experienced coach who worked for Leeds United Academy, bringing through players like Aaron Lennon and James Milner and Hull City where he was their youth team coach.

Also boasting a proven track record in women’s football, John is currently Manager of the highly successful, FA Womens Super League team, Doncaster Rovers Belles. 



Steve Lister, Overseas recruitment officer, Specialist coach and Mentor for coach education

Originally from Doncaster, Stephen has travelled the globe delivering coach education courses on behalf of the English FA and the Professional footballers association, working with grassroots coaches and coaches in the professional game alike. Having played professionally in over 500 league and cup games at various levels his experiences as a professional footballer in England combined with his experience as a ‘Senior Coach Educator’ globally, have strongly influenced his passion for development, combining football development with education.

Stephen is a UEFA A Licensed Qualified coach and also a Coach Education qualified tutor/assessor to UEFA B level. He acts as lead mentor to hundreds of coaches around the world in places such as the UAE, Malaysia and Japan.


Paul Nisbet, Goalkeeping Coach 

Paul is a current U.E.F.A. ‘B’ Level 3 licence holder who began his trade as a goalkeeper at Premier league side Newcastle United, whilst competing for his county side Northumberland. Moving on from Newcastle United he made numerous appearances for local rivals and neighbours Sunderland F.C’s youth team before moving on once more to nearby Darlington F.C. Paul then made the decision to acquire his coaching qualifications.

Paul is a qualified first aider and holds the F.A Child protection certificate and is currently working towards his level 3 U.E.F.A ‘B’ Licence in Goalkeeping.


Steve Collins, Academy Physiotherapist 

Steve is a fully qualified, State Registered Physiotherapist with the Health Professionals Council (HPC), and is a Member of the Federation of Holistic Sports Therapists. He also lectures part-time at a local College on sports massage and the treatment of sports injuries. Steve has considerable experience and expertise in professional and semi-professional sport, most recently with the Middlesbrough FC Academy and previously with the England national football team – for players with learning disabilities. 

For more information call +44 (0) 1302759170
or contact Esprit Football Academy

VAT Registration Number: 110 1171 92 | Company Registration Number: 07385426

Company Registered in England and Wales | Registered Address: Keepmoat Stadium, Stadium Way, Lakeside, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, DN4 5JW - The Uk's Premier Football Academy
Website developed by Objective Creative - Marketing Agency Sheffield