Shirebrook Academy churns out football stars of the future

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A SHIREBROOK school whose pupil made footballing history by becoming Derby County’s youngest-ever player has shown there is more talent on its way by providing nearly half the footballers in two county representative sides.

Shirebrook Academy has supplied an unprecedented five players for the Year 11 Derbyshire Schools football team and a further four players for their Year 10 counterparts for the 2011 to 2012 season.

Among the nine is 15-year-old striker Mason Bennett, who hit the headlines last month by becoming the youngest person ever to play for Derby’s first team.

Future star Mason has also represented England at U16 and U17 level.

He was joined in Derbyshire’s Year 11 team by classmates Billy Simpson, Jamie York, Brad Richards and Mark Staniforth, while Joe Cheeseman, Scott Patterson, Bradley Drew and Nathan Clarke have been picked for the Year 10 squad.

All nine players were selected following trials at the start of the school year, which saw those who played in last year’s teams take on a new crop of hopefuls, with coaches picking the best.

And they made a winning start last week, with the county’s Year 11 side – with all five Shirebrook Academy lads present – beating Yorkshire 3-2, with Billy captaining the side and Brad and Mason getting on the scoresheet.

Andy Gilbert, PE teacher at Shirebrook Academy, said: “Everyone at the school is extremely proud of Mason’s achievements but it’s great to know that he is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the football talents we have here.

“We are really fortunate to have a group of players here who excel at the sport and we are delighted that so many of them are representing the county this season.”

Taking their places in two squads of 16, the boys will play around a half a dozen games for Derbyshire in an inter-Midlands competition, as well as a national knock-out tournament held by the English Schools Football Association.

Among the many thousands of Derbyshire schoolboys to have represented the county over the years are a number of players who went on to enjoy professional careers, including Rufus Brevett, Kevin Pressman, Steve Round and Ben Burgess, who now plays for Notts County.

Paul Smith, vice-president of the Derbyshire Schools Football Association, said: “It is very unusual for one school to provide quite so many players to the U16 and U15 squads at one time.

“Shirebrook Academy has always been very supportive of county schools football and what its PE department is managing to achieve is very impressive.”

Shirebrook Academy’s own football team are the current league champions in the Bolsover and North East Derbyshire District competitions, while Mason’s own success saw him crowned Junior Sportsman of the Year at the Derbyshire Sports Awards earlier this month.

When he made his Derby debut – and hit the bar in a 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough – he broke a previous youngest-ever-player record set by former Rams winger Lee Holmes, who hails from South Normanton.