We are celebrating the news that our Sport student Charlie Gunson has been selected for the England Schools’ Under 18 squad. From thousands throughout the country, Charlie has made the final 18 and will wear his first England football shirt against Australia on the 4 February 2015.

On news of his selection, Charlie commented: “I was initially speechless but am clearly thrilled. I cannot wait to pull on the England shirt and to have one of the games played at Eastleigh club, my home town, and so close to Sparsholt College will give friends, family, team mates and staff, the opportunity to watch me play.”

The England selectors have been monitoring Charlie’s performance since October which included a number of trials at county, regional, inter-regional and more latterly national level, with the last 64 and the last 32 selections conducted at Lilleshall. When not playing for his country, Charlie is a second year student at Sparsholt on the Southampton FC Second Chance programme which is run in partnership with the College. He is studying a BTEC Extended Diploma in Performance and Excellence, saying: “The course has been fantastic in ensuring that beside my football I will also have a recognised academic qualification which can be used as required in the future.”

Charlie also regularly plays for Wessex Premier League team, Andover Town, whose team is coordinated directly from the Sparsholt and Andover College campuses.

Academy Manager Neil Benson said: “Charlie’s selection for an England cap has come as marvellous news for us all. He has made tremendous progress during his time at Sparsholt College, enjoying the top class training and match facilities we have here on the campus. The new sports centre, with its fantastic gym, has played a massive part in Charlie’s physical conditioning and he is fortunate to enjoy our superb match facilities, which have been created by the College’s onsite grounds team.

“The partnership with Southampton Football Club has undoubtedly provided Charlie with excellent training and match opportunities at Staplewood. This, coupled with the high standards delivered in-house here, have prepared Charlie physically, mentally, technically and tactically to play at the highest level.”

Southampton FC Academy Manager Matt Hale said: “It is the highest honour to represent your country at any sport, and Charlie’s achievements should not be overlooked. It is a reflection of not just his ability but the hard work and commitment he has shown at developing his potential and also those that have worked hard to support him. A really proud moment for his family no doubt, equally so for Southampton Football Club and our Sparsholt Second Chance Programme in particular.”

Southampton FC Lead U18 Coach Anthony Limbrick said: “It is a great achievement for Charlie to be called up to the England Schools Team and one that he thoroughly deserves as he is hard working and always shows a good attitude through out his time at Southampton FC Second Chance Programme. Charlie has been involved in training sessions and games against the Academy Programme teams here at Southampton, impressing in these and showing his potential, and it is positive to hear of his recent call up.”

Sparsholt College also had one other player reach the final 32. Keeper Mark Childs, who unfortunately missed out at the last hurdle, said: “Obviously I am very disappointed to get so close but I know that the experience will stand me in good stead in my search to gain a trial at professional clubs later in the season.”

Principal Tim Jackson concludes: “Both Charlie and Mark’s success is fantastic and a product of their hard work and dedication and that of the coaching and academic team within the Football Academy at the College.”

For any school leavers looking to pursue an opportunity of joining the Academy, there are a number of trial days coming up. Football Academy Manager Neil Benson should be contacted in the first instance on 07860 150075 or email neil.benson@sparsholt.ac.uk.