Foundation of Light’s Football Scholarship programme is celebrating further success after second years Craig Ellison and Lewis King signed contracts at Premier League side Burnley Football Club.
Forward Craig (Monkwearmouth) and defender Lewis (Shildon) have impressed whilst on trial at the Clarets’ Academy over the past few weeks.
The pair put pen to paper on their deals at Spennymoor Town’s Brewery Field, where they have become an integral part of The Moors’ youth team this season.
Craig, who scored 21 goals in 28 games as Monkwearmouth Scholars won the NFYL U19 League and Trophy double last season, told SportsByte: “I’m absolutely over the moon, I’ve put a lot of work in for this and obviously have to keep it up while I’m there.
“It will be a harder challenge as it’s a higher standard of football to what I’ve been playing but I’ve just got to try my best and keep doing what I’ve been doing.”
Shildon Scholars’ captain Lewis added: “I’m very pleased, it’s a big step for my football career and I can’t wait to get started and push on.
“It’s a higher level and it’s going to challenge me to do well.”
Both Craig and Lewis, who started for Burnley’s Under 18s against Nottingham Forest in the U18 Professional Development League at the weekend, praised the Football Scholarship programme and Foundation staff for helping them take the first steps towards their dream of becoming professional footballers.
“The Scholarship has done a lot for me,” said Lewis. “It’s improved me as a player both technically and physically.
“Alan [Young, Shildon Scholars coach] has done a lot for me, made sure I played well, named me captain of the team and ensured I progressed.
“Going on away trips to Tottenham and watching England play Spain are definite highlights.”
Craig added: “The Scholarship has helped me massively. From a year and a half ago I’m wasn’t the player I am now. The coaches do anything for you to make you a better footballer and constantly give you opportunities to get into clubs and achieve your dream.
“Winning the league and the Trophy Final here at the Stadium of Light was one of the best days on the Scholarship programme by far.”
Coaches Alan Young and Jamie Chandler, who have been a major part of both players’ development since joining the Scholarship programme last season, say both players deserve their move.
“We’re very proud of them,” said Jamie. “They’ve both been model learners both in the classroom and on the pitch. It’s shown through from the first moment they joined.
“In his first interview Craig said he wanted to be a professional footballer and he’s had that in his mind from the start and all his hard work has paid off.”
Both lads came in as good footballers and after adapting to the full-time programme they’ve really kicked on and they both deserve the opportunity they’ve been given.
Burnley Academy Manager, Jonathan Pepper, told spennymoortownfc.co.uk: “The lads didn’t look out of place during their time here. We have been tracking and monitoring their progress for around two months.
“Craig is a throwback to an old-fashioned striker and is not afraid to be physical and compete, something which is rare with academy players.
“Lewis is very composed on the ball and reads the game well, and he could potentially play a number of positions as it’s clear that he is a good all-round footballer.
“First, we will get them integrated into the group and look at areas for development. In terms of the future, we will be looking to move them into the Under 23 side which would get them a little bit closer to the first team.
“At some stage, we would look at possibly sending them out on loan, but that is very much in the long-term plan.”
Foundation of Light’s Football Scholarship gives 16-18 year olds the opportunity to represent Sunderland AFC and gain nationally recognised qualifications through an intensive football and education programme.
Players have the opportunity to be recruited by professional and semi-professional football clubs; go on to higher education at home or abroad as well as pursuing careers in coaching, sports science, sports journalism or physiotherapy.
For more information about the Football Scholarship programme, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0191 5515067.
20 November 2017