Sparsholt College Football Academy students Charlie Gunson and Mark Childs have made the final selection stage for England Schools’ under 18 squad. The two 17 year olds are to join 30 other young players at Lilleshall for the final stage which could see them play for their country in March.

Central midfielder Gunson and goalkeeper Childs are both second year students at Sparsholt, and are on the Saints Second Chance Programme which is run is partnership with the College. Both students play for Andover Town FC and for Southampton FC (Sparsholt).

Manager Neil Benson said: “We’re hoping to get Charlie down to Staplewood (Southampton FC’s training ground) soon to spend a week training there. However, his and our focus at the moment is this forthcoming trial at Lilleshall.”

Charlie said: “I’m feeling confident going up there because I’ve done a lot of work with the coaches at Sparsholt in the last few weeks, especially Lewis Benson who has helped me out a lot. It would be an honour to represent my country and having that in mind motivates me more to go and give everything I have.”

With regard to Childs, Neil Benson explains his journey to the final 32: “At the South West trial Mark only got twenty minutes worth of play which made things rather tricky for the selectors and he initially didn’t make it through the selection process. But they subsequently watched him play for Andover Town and Southampton FC and we got the call to say he’d been reprieved and was being monitored.”

Commenting on the forthcoming trial at Lilleshall, Mark said: “I’m really excited as I originally didn’t get through, so I’m really happy to get a second chance. I am still in shock though, it’s an unbelievable thing to say that I could have an England cap at my age – it would be a really proud moment.”

Concluding on this incredible achievement for the College, the Saints Second Chance Programme and for Andover Town FC and Southampton FC, Neil Benson said: “Having Charlie and Mark selected for Lilleshall trials sends out a real message. It’s marvellous for Sparsholt and a big plus for all those connected with Hampshire and Hampshire Colleges football.”