Tennis: Exile Eardley attacks LTA for lack of support
BASFORD starlet Josh Eardley has criticised the Lawn Tennis Association for not providing enough support to talented youngsters.
The 20-year-old has just completed the first year of a tennis scholarship at Wingate University in America, an option he pursued after failing to secure financial support from the sport's UK governing body.
Eardley believes the LTA should be far more strategic in the way they distribute funding to Britain's rising stars.
"The LTA have never supported or funded my tennis career," he revealed.
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"I feel they should do more to find talented players who cannot afford to pay for coaching and travelling costs.
"A lot of the players that they do fund don't really need the extra money."
British number one Andy Murray has previously been vocal in his criticism of the organisation for the way they allocate funding, on one occasion even accusing them of "ruining" the career of his brother, Jamie.
Murray, who became Britain's first Grand Slam singles champion since 1936 when he won the US Open last August, choose to pursue his career at the Sanchez Casal Academy in Spain when 16 after turning down the chance to attend the UK tennis academy.
Eardley, a former pupil of St John Fisher Catholic College in Newcastle, says he understands why players are now prepared to move overseas to fulfil their ambitions.
He said: "Players are going to countries such as Spain because the coaching is more beneficial and they are able to produce much better tennis.
"When you look at what it has done for Murray, as well as the likes of Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, then it's an easy choice."
After a stint at the English Tennis Academy at Sutton in Surrey, Eardley decided the only way he could improve his game was to move abroad, so he went in search of a move to the United States. But he admits his decision wasn't solely down to the better facilities available to aspiring athletes at American universities.
"The main factor was whether I would get the same opportunities if I chose to stay in England, and the answer was 'no'." he said.
"The tennis system isn't anywhere near as competitive as it is in the US. There are only a few universities in England who have good teams, but they don't offer scholarships.
"At Wingate, we discussed where in their line-up I would be playing in singles and doubles, how much training would be involved and how much scholarship money they could offer me."
He has gone on to become an integral part of a successful team at North Carolina- Wingate who won the regular season conference title.
Eardley says his great first year in America has proved he made the right decision.
"I don't have any regrets about going to university there. It was definitely the right decision and I would have regretted not taking the opportunity.
"I've found it really easy to settle in, and got on well with the team almost immediately.
"All eight of the guys on the team are good friends now."
Alongside his tennis commitments, Eardley is studying for a degree in accounting, and admits it can be a tough juggling act.
"It has been tricky combining a degree with my tennis schedule," he added, "but it is similar to what I had been doing at Sutton, just on a larger scale.
"I haven't really thought about what I want to do after I graduate, but one option I would consider is to become the graduate assistant coach.
"That would allow me to earn a masters degree while continuing on the Wingate tennis team."
Eardley first picked up a racquet on a family holiday to Lanzarote when he was six, joining Basford Tennis Club as a keen and energetic seven-year-old.
He was selected for the Staffordshire training squad when he was 10 and, five years later, he and other county prospects made a trip to Barcelona to work with Sergi Bruguera.
That brief stint with the two-time French Open champion opened a door for Eardley to join the English Academy, which was then run by Jeremy Bates.