North East Connected

Young footballer scores on international debut

A SCHOOLBOY footballer has been earmarked for top flight success after scoring on his international debut.

Northallerton School and Sixth Form College student Jack Stapley shot a second half goal into the net against Finland after being called up to play for the Northern Ireland U16 squad.

Central midfielder Jack, 15, who also plays for Middlesbrough Academy, was chosen for the international team after Northern Ireland scouts watched him play against Manchester United.

“The scouts approached my dad and asked if he had any video footage of me playing in other games,” said Jack.

“We sent them a video and the next week they came back and watched me again and then I got the call saying that they wanted me to join the squad.”

Jack, of Northallerton, was eligible to play for the green and white army’s U16 squad through a link with his grandfather who was born in Belfast.

“It was incredible,” said Jack. “Every footballer dreams of an international call up and it was so different from my usual games.

“They flew me over to Belfast for the match and in the changing rooms all our kits were hung up with our names on them ready for the game.

“It’s an experience I’ll never forget and even though we lost 3-2 it was an amazing feeling to score in my debut game.”

Opting to play for the Northern Ireland international squad at youth level does not rule out Jack’s chances of playing for England at a later date if the call should come.

“I think if I had the choice I’d play for England but if Northern Ireland wanted me to play for them again I’d love to,” said Jack, who is currently studying for his GCSEs while also attending a day release scheme at Middlesbrough Football Club.

“I’ve never thought about doing anything else apart from playing football, but I also know how important it is to keep up with my studies.

“The teachers at Northallerton School and Sixth Form College have been really supportive of my footballing career while also helping me focus on getting the best grades possible.”

Jack is hoping to be offered a two year football scholarship at Middlesbrough FC after completing his exams in the summer before pursuing his dream of playing at a professional level.

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