Sparsholt College Football Academy students Ryan Penny and Adam Grange have been selected by Premiership team Southampton Football Club to play in their U18 squad against one of Ireland’s top clubs, the Shamrock Rovers. Both players are on the Saints Second Chance Programme which is run in partnership with the College.

The Saints Second Chance programme is overseen by Neil Benson and coached by his son, Lewis Benson. Specifically for top-quality, talented and committed players between the ages of 16 and 19, the programme aims to develop footballing potential as well as enabling players to gain national qualifications in sport. This recent selection of Ryan and Adam, who has previously played for England Schoolboys UN18 Squad, reaffirms the College’s links with the club.

Commenting on the value the partnership with Saints provides to the College and players, Neil Benson said: “We’re grateful at the Sparsholt Academy that Southampton’s Academy side presented our players with such an invaluable experience to their development. Being invited to an overseas game is a great privilege and achievement”.

Both students were selected and started the game. Midfielder Ryan played the full 90 minutes and striker Adam stayed on the pitch for a respectable 75 minutes. There has been good feedback on both their performance and the College is hopeful of further opportunities with the Club.

Coach Lewis added: “First and second year students are continuously working hard and striving for opportunities with clubs at a professional level. This game highlighted both players’ attitudes which have been first class and extremely deserving of such a fantastic platform to play football.”

The close links Sparsholt have developed with Saints means the club tends to see their best players first. However the College also works with a number of other leading clubs who have also expressed interest in some of the players and is hoping in the next few months to engineer some opportunities for a number of students.