A GROUP of students from Sunderland College have been told “the world is their oyster” after a hugely successful first year working with three former professional footballers.
Ex-Sunderland striker David Rush is heading the college’s Football Development Centre, and has enjoyed a superb 12 months at the helm.
They have listened to the coaches, and the progression is all down to the lads and their attitudesDavid Rush
His team, which plays in the Category 3A English Colleges League, has won the title with a game to play, and are nine points clear at the top.
Another team from the college, meanwhile, which is coached by former Sunderland defender and ex-Gateshead manager Anth Smith, has also won a title, having secured the Category 2 league championship with a game to play.
The third and final team is coached by ex-Hartlepool United player Gustavo Di Lella, and is set to finish fourth in the Category 3B League.
A combined team finished runners-up in the County Cup, beating much-fancied Gateshead 3-0 in the semi-final, and Rush has been delighted with the progress of the Under-18s players.
Rush – who played for Sunderland in the 1992 FA Cup final – said: “It has been a hugely successful season for us.
“We have come a long, long way from the beginning of the campaign, when we played Hartlepool youths, and lost 3-2.
“I saw glimpses of quality in that game, and since then they have progressed tremendously.
“They have listened to the coaches, and the progression is all down to the lads and their attitudes.”
The victory over Gateshead’s college team was particularly impressive, and gave a tantalising taster of what could lie ahead for the Wearside outfit.
The players are set to spend a week in Croatia from June 2, where they will enjoy a one-week football session and two-game holiday.
Rush feels the future is bright for his young team, who complete 10 hours of academic work and 10 hours of football training a week as part of their course.
He added: “We beat Gateshead’s top Under-19s team in the semi-final of the County Cup – they had their best side out and were national champions.
“We beat them 3-0 with eight first-years, so the future is bright, and we’ve got a really good bunch coming through next year as well.
“With our current players, a couple of them have had trials at professional clubs, and I wouldn’t stand in anyone’s way if they got that opportunity.
“We are run like a professional club, and the players all get chores to do, while we expect them to show respect and discipline.
“The world is their oyster.
“We’ve got a link with a company in America to get the lads scholarships over there, or they can work towards getting a job here in the UK.”