Three teenage footballers from Hartlepool are gearing up to face some of Europe’s most talented youth teams after helping Sunderland to glory.
Luke Woolston, Joe Ryder and Will Cain - who was captain for the day when the Black Cats’ Under-13s gave Wearside something to cheer about with a brilliant display in the Premier League National Qualifier.
Sunderland won all of their games against Everton, Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Manchester City without conceding a goal. Progress means they now face this country’s other qualifiers, as well as international teams such as Atalanta and Anderlecht, in Swansea.
“I’m expecting Chelsea to be in there because they are top of our league, but Manchester City won it last year and we beat them this year,” said Will.
“We don’t have the same captain all of the time, I was for this though. I like to encourage and communicate and that’s probably why I was selected.”
Cain, a former pupil at Holy Trinity, plays midfield for Dyke House and scores goals for fun, earning him an award for being the College’s leading scorer last year.
The ex-Seaton Carew FC player has been performing at centre-back for Sunderland.
Cain said: “I have been with Sunderland since I was seven. It’s still a buzz now because I love it.
“I remember playing at a tournament for Seaton when I was first scouted. After a trial I went into the development squad and it went from there.
“I have learned allsorts playing for Sunderland. You are taught respect as well as how to develop as a player.
“When you go in and out of the academy, you have to shake the hand of the coach and it’s things like that which develop you as a person too.”
Juggling academy football at the Academy of Light with life at school means a hectic schedule, although he is determined to put the work in to achieve his goals.
Cain, a member of Dyke House’s Elite Development Squad, said: “On a Tuesday I have training and the gym; Wednesday is day release at Sunderland; Thursday I have training and Strength and Conditioning sessions at school. Friday can be free unless I have matches, while Saturday I have training.
“I would like to stay at Sunderland and keep doing well. Hopefully by the time I leave school I will get a scholarship, that’s the aim. I know I have to stick in at school too, you can’t get carried away.”
Success with Sunderland last week is not the first time this season that the Under-13s have celebrated.
Cain helped them to Youdan Tournament glory last summer, which included victories over Seattle Sounders and Sheffield United.
He also plays cricket to a good standard for Hartlepool Cricket Club and the all-rounder helped them to a cup final last year, while he also plays golf and on his Xbox “when I have some free time”.