Not the final whistle just yet...
With England having taken their youngest ever squad to this year’s World Cup, there will no doubt be scores of young lads across the country looking to follow in Kane and Co.’s footsteps.
But for those who’ve always dreamed of playing for their boyhood team, winning the league or even having a national cap to their name, the devastating blow of rejection that they aren’t quite ready or good enough to be a full-time scholar can be hard to accept – destroying dreams of a footballing future before they’ve even begun.
Things are about to change for the young players of Barnsley.
Reds in the Community, in partnership with the Barnsley FC Academy, have launched a new shadow scholarship scheme for the 2018/19 season, giving local players aged 16 to 19 the opportunity to play in a high standard national youth league for a professional club.
The perfect platform for late developers, players who have gone under the radar or those with borderline ability, the shadow scholarship programme now means that these young players are able to train with a professional club for a further two to three years in the hope of progressing into a career in sport.
This second chance scheme is being led by coach Mark Tinker who currently works as a coach for the Barnsley FC Academy’s under 15 team.
As the only club in Yorkshire to offer the scheme, the team off the pitch at Oakwell will be working hard to nurture this local talent, both in a sporting and academic setting.
Linked to their existing youth academy, the shadow scholarship team will have similar access to the training, gym, physiotherapy and rehabilitation facilities at Oakwell but they will also be studying most days to gain a BTEC diploma in sport.
An average day might see the squad have lessons on anatomy, physiology and sports psychology undertaken by tutors who are all experts in their chosen field, followed by a two-hour training session to finish the day.
“Education is the most important part of the scheme. With them playing at a difficult level, it can be hard hitting and mentally taxing and so the lads need to be committed to every aspect, not just the football,” Mark says.
Starting this July, the players will work hard to make progress both on and off the pitch, gaining experience of the league, qualifications and employability all before they reach the age of 19. They will also have the chance of an international tour on a trip to Barcelona in April.
If, at the end of their time with Barnsley, they decide against playing football, they will still have the skills and knowledge to progress onto a sports-related career such as physiotherapy, sports media or performance analysis.
By working on employability skills such as respect, accountability, and initiative, those who look for other options will be set for a bright future too.
And with a foundation coaching degree set to launch, there are plenty of opportunities to keep the dream alive at Oakwell, on or off the pitch.