TWO former Sunderland players are going back to the classroom to run a sporting venture.
Southmoor School has enlisted the help of ex-Black Cats Martin Gray and Brian Atkinson to set up the new Football Academy, to be launched later this year.
Similar to USA-style soccer scholarships – encompassing the national curriculum, qualifications and sporting talent – the new project will develop the school’s elite young footballers while inspiring their academic studies.
About 50 boys and girls will spend two hours each week with the Martin Gray Football Academy’s (MGFA) education team.
They will then spend another two hours every week with Martin and Brian, developing skills and techniques for the professional game.
“It’s a fantastic development which we know will benefit the school massively,” said Dr Phil Ingram, headteacher at the Ryhope Road school.
“The primary aim is to support students in school who have ambitions of becoming a professional footballer.
“One day we hope some will realise their dreams.”
A series of taster sessions will be held at Southmoor over the next couple of months to select 50 or 60 students.
They will wear different MGFA-branded PE uniforms, but will still train with their teams during the week.
Martin, 40, who began his career as a midfielder with Sunderland in 1990, said: “It’s an exciting new project for us at Southmoor, and I really believe the school will benefit hugely from it.”
Brian, also 40, who played 169 games for Sunderland between 1989 and 1996, said: “I have a passion for football and for coaching, and both Martin and I share the same philosophies on playing football the right way.”