A RECORD six promising young footballers from a borough academy have been offered scholarships in the United States.
The students at Monkseaton Football Academy have been offered four-year deals, giving them the opportunity to concentrate on their football career full-time.
And for the majority of the six, it is job done, as a scholarship is what they wanted to achieve when joining the academy.
But for some it has proved to be an unexpected career change.
Liam Gillesphey said: “I wasn’t planning on going.
“But after the training session our coach Lee Picton came over to me and asked what I was doing and I said I was going to university and then they asked if I would go.
“At first I did not know what to do, I thought there might be some kind of catch.
“But there isn’t and it’s starting to sink in now and I’m looking forward to the move.”
The 18-year-old has been offered a place at Wingate University in North Carolina and will be looking to concentrate on sports coaching in his scholarship.
Calum Denham, 19, has to choose between two universities after being offered a place in Erskin in South Carolina or Ave Maria University in Florida.
He said: “I knew I wanted to go away. I came here to play football at a better standard and then go on to America.
“There are a few older lads who have gone from here before and they have said it was one of the best experiences of their lives.”
Coach Piction said: “We have had a fantastic track record over the last few years in giving the lads the opportunity, but we’ve never had as many as six in one year group, so it’s a particularly good year for us.
“It’s a testament to how hard these lads have worked over the two or three years that they have been with us.
“A lot of American coaches come and deal directly with us as oppose to going through an agency, and that’s down to the national success we have had over the last five years or so.”
Others to have been offered scholarships are Matthew Hunter, Jonny Forrest, Shaun Gadsby and James Card.
Picton added: “It’s full-time education with full-time football.
“We have got a situation where a few of the players have come back from scholarships and are now playing at a fantastically high standard and they also have a degree.
“The six have helped us this year achieve a high level of success on the pitch.”
This season the squad has a chance to win the English Colleges FA Premier League for the first time.
Their two remaining games are both at home.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the academy at Monkseaton should contact Lee Picton on 07930 420020 or e-mail 96Pictonl@monkseaton.org