By Dominic Scurr
GATESHEAD Football Club’s Under-11 National League School’s tournament took place on Thursday with St. Mary’s beating eight other talented sides to the crown.
The Fellside based school triumphed over Sacred Heart 3-0 in the final and will now represent Gateshead FC in the regional finals which will take place at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank on Wednesday 29 March.
The winners of that stage will then progress to the final stage at Wembley Stadium ahead of the National League Play-off final.
After the tournament, former Gateshead captain Ben Clark, who refereed in the event along with James Curtis, Jack Elliott and Shaun MacDonald said: “It was an excellent day, I really enjoyed it and I said to James just before it looked as though the kids really enjoyed it too.
“I’d like to thank all the schools that took part (Sacred Heart, South Street, St. Mary’s, Lingey House, St. Peter’s, Front Street, Usworth, White Mere, St. Mary & St. Thomas) because all of them behaved very well and well mannered – it was a great competition for them and there were lots of good footballers today.
“I refereed (St. Mary’s) in the first game and I thought they had a good chance of winning it, they were a very good, organised team and they seem to love their football which is what it’s all about.
“As a club working with schools is something we have definitely improved on and we’re looking to progress with that further in the coming months and beyond.”
Gateshead’s community programme has also just had it’s funding renewed for a second year by the National League and Clark is looking forward to working in schools and in the wider community.
“It’s a good platform for us going into the local schools,” he continued.
“I think it’s good for me and James as parents to get into the schools because we know what it’s like to deal with kids and it’s nice to be out there and representing the club in the community.
“Anything we can do to get the Gateshead Football Club name out there we will try to do and I think this is a great start to what could hopefully be a very strong and beneficial programme.
“We want to get a few new Gateshead supporters coming through the gate and I said to the kids at the start of the day that a few of them will be Gateshead fans by the end of it.
“You can see them running around the track and in the stand that they’ve loved it so it’s been a really positive day and hopefully this is just the beginning.”
Following the presentation of the trophy, winning coach, Mr. Colling, who teaches in Year Five, was full of praise for the event.
“It was a fantastic day for us,” he said.
“It was really well ran and organised by the Club and the boys had a great time and now we’re looking forward to pulling on the Gateshead shirt in Lincoln next month.
“It gives us that bit of motivation and because they already know Gateshead pretty well it’s quite a big thing for them to be representing them at School level.”
And St. Mary’s star player Joe, age 11, was in good spirits as well.
“It went really well because we all played as a team and listened to everything the manager told us.
“It’s a good accomplishment for the school to win at Gateshead and now we’re excited to play for the club and I think we’re going to go down and win at Lincoln as well.”
As a prize for winning the competition, Joe and his teammate have all been awarded family tickets to a Gateshead match at the International Stadium.
“Ah I’m dead excited,” added the 11-year-old.
“We’re all looking forward to watching Gateshead play at the stadium, it’ll be really fun!”
Gateshead Football Club would like to congratulate St. Mary’s on their victory and wish them the best of luck as our representative in the regional finals.
Well done to all other teams who took part and we hope to see you again soon as our Schools Programme kicks-off.