Sunderland sign star young stopper

A Sunderland school hopes for a dream double after seeing another of its young footballers sign for Sunderland AFC.

Goalkeeper Dale Connor joins the Black Cats academy a year after schoolmate Ryan Noble also signed a scholarship with his hometown club.

The striker fired seven goals in 12 appearances for Sunderland Under-18s last season, setting high standards for 16-year-old Connor to follow when he begins his scholarship in the next few weeks.

From High Barnes, he has played for Thornhill School, Barnes Rovers and Grindon FC. He was with Middlesborough, but was not offered a scholarship and Sunderland stepped in.

Brian Buddle, SAFC's education and welfare officer, said: "Sunderland had a look at him as they had not recruited a goalkeeper at the time.

"He went to academy and was assessed by coaching staff and Tony Norman during training sessions."

"Dale showed great potential and has signed a two-year scholarship with Sunderland where a specially designed learning programme will be set up for him. He is a bright pupil and he is expected to do well."

Connor said: "I am really excited. I couldn't wait to get my GCSEs over and then start the real training."

Thornhil headteacher John Hallworth is naturally delighted with the teenager's progress, and that of Noble. He said: "Our congratulations go to Dale. His dedication to his sport has reaped rewards. We will be watching Dale's career with interest over the coming years and wish him every success."

To celebrate Connor signing, Thornhill will be presented with an autographed SAFC shirt which will be framed and hung in the entrance to the school's new sports hall alongside the one given when Noble sealed his Black Cats scholarship.

Connor is one of eight new full-time scholars recruited by Sunderland for next season.

The others are James Armstrong (a midfielder from Billingham), Brett Elliot (midfield, Jarrow), Louis Laing (defender, Newcastle, England U17 international), Michael Lamb (defender, Sunderland), Liam Marrs (defender, Cramlington), John Egan (defender, Cork, Ireland U17 international), Patrick McEleney (striker, Derry, Ireland U17 international).