A local college football team went head-to-head with a Premier League side as part of a sports development programme that allows students to test themselves against the nation’s finest players.
The elite squad from Gateshead College, made up of 18 of the college’s best players, travelled to Fulham Football Club in a friendly match against the youth squad.
The students, all aged between 16 and 18, travelled to London on a two-day trip which was funded by Gateshead College.
The elite team from Gateshead College’s football academy received a taste of the success which they could hope to achieve in their future sporting careers by touring the grounds and meeting Fulham first team manager Kit Symons. They were up against a strong force in Fulham, which won the Barclays Under-18 Premier League title for the past three seasons and the National Final for the past two.
Although the team lost 3-0 to the London team, the players impressed both their coaches and the opposing side with their commitment, high skill levels and refusal to give up.
John Gamble, football coach at Gateshead College said: “The day was not only a great experience for the team but they held their own against a premier league team; really showcasing their skills and ability as well as their professionalism.
“They all played fantastically and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It gave them all a taste of what they can achieve in their own careers, which encourages them to continue doing well in their studies and in their sport.
“Gateshead College and sports academy manager, Lewis Pendleton, are always really supportive of these opportunities and support teams with funding towards travel and accommodation expenses, providing students with the best possible education both in the classroom and through extra-curricular experiences.”
Coaches from both sides were particularly impressed with the performance of talented team captain Jordan Skelton, who has played for England Schoolboys as a centre back. Seventeen year-old Jordan from County Durham, is studying for a BTEC diploma in sport and hopes to pursue a professional career in football.
He said: “The experience was great, it built our confidence and gave us a look into what we could achieve as professional sportsmen.
“Gateshead College and our coaches provide us with so many great opportunities and encourage us to be the best, and to do that we have to compete against the best.”
The academy football team also had the chance to develop their skills overseas in Croatia on a four-day college-funded trip last year, which saw them compete against NK Novigrad.
Martin Pike, a football coach at the college and North East scout for Fulham, arranged the match after the elite team showcased their skills in an impressive season, he said: “I have every faith that the Gateshead College team would hold their own against Fulham youth team, which is why I set up the match.
“The team were impeccable both on and off the pitch. I feel that experiences like this are key to the development of our upcoming sporting stars.
“Fulham were very impressed by the performance and we’ve sent a signed shirt to the students to say thank you for coming.”
Academy for Sport students work with coaches to perfect their sporting skills whilst gaining academic and coaching qualifications, all in an environment which inspires them to achieve great success. The college has academies in men’s and women’s football, athletics, basketball, boxing, cricket, rugby league, rugby union, netball, golf, judo and weightlifting which all provide specialist training programmes.