Ivybridge students left in awe after training with Paul Scholes
Students at Ivybridge Community College were given a football lesson they will never forget on Friday – by former Manchester United and England midfielder Paul Scholes.
The 38-year-old was part of a Red Devils’ team that came to Devon to launch a new partnership between the Premier League champions and Ivybridge Community College, which would open a pathway to elite football for children in the Westcountry.
The scheme is the brainchild of the college’s Academy director, Wayne Carlisle, and his former Exeter City team-mate Andy Taylor, who started his professional career on the books of the Red Devils.
“For a long time now, players in the South West have been cut off and not been able to access the top Academies,” Carlisle said. “This gives us an opportunity to create opportunities for them to get into those academies.”
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PAUL SCHOLES ARRIVES TO TAKE TRAINING AT IVYBRIDGE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Until recently, clubs were only allowed to sign up kids to their youth schemes within 90 minutes of their home ground, meaning the Westcountry was cut off in terms of a top young player being able to sign for a top club.
It led to England’s top clubs scouring the globe and signing foreign teenagers, who could then be coached in their Academy system.
However, the introduction of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) means clubs can once again sign players from outside of their catchment area, which is something that happened to Taylor as a 14-year-old schoolboy living in Exeter.
“I was 14 when I signed to United, so I have been through the process and know what the club is all about,” Taylor said.
“They certainly have an ethos for excellence and they have a history for producing fantastic young talent.
“There was a lot of interest in me when I was 14 from various clubs, but I wouldn’t have been able to go and play for them because I’d have been restricted by the rules.
“Now, it provides the opportunity for a young player to access that and be involved in that system and develop as a player. If that player has the potential, he needs to go to the best and learn from the best to realise that potential.”
Sceptics may suggest that such a link up deprives Devon’s three professional teams – Exeter City, Plymouth Argyle and Torquay United – of the chance to snap up the region’s best talent, but Carlisle refutes that claim.
“The main beneficiaries of this will be the local clubs,” he said. “There will be a player that comes along in the coming years that will be good enough to join Manchester United, like Sean Goss [who left Exeter City to join United]. But the vast majority are not going to make that.
“By striving to get there and training to get there, they will instead end up at the local clubs, and the standard of football should go up with the local clubs,” Carlisle added.
As for Scholes, he was in his element with the ball at his feet passing the odd piece of advice to the students of the college, who knew nothing of his appearance until only minutes before his arrival.
“I think the kids that come to this school are lucky with the facilities that are here, we never had anything like it when I was at school,” Scholes said. “The kids have a great attitude, which is always nice and I have really enjoyed it.
“I was football daft at that age and it is great for them just to be a part of a training session run by the greatest club in the world. It’s a real treat for these kids and hopefully, both parties can benefit from it.”
There were certainly plenty of star-struck faces on display, none more so than Lee Robinson, from Saltash, who had the honour of partnering the United legend for a skills session.
“It was an amazing experience to train with him, I thought he was superb and he told me to practice and work hard,” he said.
“We didn’t know anyone was coming, it is like a birthday present, really. Then people started saying Paul Scholes is here, and when I saw him I couldn’t believe it.”