Nearly 70 students from Cramlington have experienced the Dutch way of football at one of Europe’s top clubs.
Four school teams played and trained at PSV Eindhoven during a five-day visit to the club which has been managed by Sir Bobby Robson, Hiddink, Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat and whose former players include Ruud Gullit, double World Cup winner Ronaldo and – until his transfer to Newcastle United last year – Georginio Wijnaldum.
“They were treated like professionals – from the food they ate to the bus in which they travelled,” said Cramlington Learning Village educational visits co-ordinator Paul Steanson. “The facilities were fantastic and the attention to detail from the coaches was on a different level.”
Some of the students had not travelled abroad before and many had not been away from their families for such a long period of time, said Paul, but all of them would benefit from the experience as well as the advanced level of coaching they received.
At PSV’s training camp, the Cramlington teams watched the club’s manager Philip Cocu and coaches Bolo Zenden and Luc Nilis – all former World Cup players – put their players through their paces. The students also trained there and played matches against local clubs. Each of the four Cramlington age group teams won their games.
The school has a proud history as a breeding ground for professional footballers. Former students include the ex-Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham player Martin Taylor and the current Fulham defender Dan Burn.
Three students who went on the trip to Eindhoven already have their sights on careers in football. Tom Bexton is joining championship club Wolves when he leaves school in the summer and both Year 8 student Kyle Wilson and goalkeeper Matthew Alexander are with Newcastle United’s academy.
“It was great to travel abroad and spend time with my teammates. We were treated like professionals and we learnt a lot about being the best,” said Matthew, who is in Year 9.
The school started taking teams to professional football clubs in 2003. The first trip was to LA Galaxy in California. “Even though some of them are now in their 30s they still remember it – especially surfing off Newport Beach” said Paul.
Rising costs meant the school has had to look closer to home, but students have visited Villarreal and Valencia in Spain and Ajax in Amsterdam before Easter’s trip – via ferry from North Shields – to Eindhoven.
“We try to do something every couple of years. It’s a fabulous experience for all of them and – for the Year 11s – a bit of a swansong before coming back for their final few weeks at school,” said Chris Horner, Head of Boys’ PE.
He said passengers on the ferry, staff at the hotel and coaches at PSV Eindhoven commended the students’ behaviour and added: “When we played the matches the Dutch teams saw us as representing our country, not just Cramlington, and our students were very proud of that responsibility.”
Jack Smith from Year 11 said: “The whole tour was amazing as the facilities that we used were top class and to play football against Dutch teams was a unique experience. I’ll never forget it.”
Year 8 student Christian Steanson added: “The coaches at PSV Eindhoven were brilliant. The sessions were fun and they really made you think.”
The team arrived in Netherlands just after the death was announced of the country’s footballing legend Johan Cruyyf. “He was at the centre of the Dutch team’s total football revolution,” said Paul. “From what we saw in Eindhoven – and the way the coaches approach the game – his legacy is going to live on for many years.”