A crop of Year Eights’ finest footballers from Walkden High School travelled to Villarreal CF over the Easter break, to attend a training camp set-up by Inspire Sports and the FA.

Over the course of the week, the boys had the opportunity to train with professional coaching staff, witness a first team training session and show off their unquestionable playing ability in a couple of exhibition games.

Andrew Tobutt headed up the expedition, having introduced the scheme to the school in 2016, he said: “It’s a good experience for the lads. It’s a good experience for us as a school. Now we have it in place that in school, in Year Eight, (every year) it’s the football tour for both A and B teams.”

As part of the package, games were scheduled between fellow touring teams for both A and B sides. In the tours standout game, Walkden High School’s A team came away 6-0 victors against Drac De Castellón, with star-man Jake Wallbank bagging three of the goals, to Mr. Tobutt’s delight.

He said: “It was the first time a player had scored a hat-trick on tour, he was quite delighted with that achievement.”

Hand shakes ahead of the game vs Drac De Castellón

Walkden High School finished the tour with a win, two draws and a loss in some really closely fought games. Mr. Tobutt was pleased with the results, particularly proud of the resilience shown in tough conditions.

He said: “Playing at five or six o’clock in the evening when it was still quite warm and having to deal with the hostility of the local crowd, the Spanish parents and the supporters were quite boisterous so the boys had to try and block that out.”

Walkden High School
The boys line up in Valencia

The development tours run by Inspire Sports not only offer a fantastic coaching opportunity for these groups, but also allow the youngsters the opportunity to experience different countries, cultures and cuisines.

Mr. Tobutt said: “They get the opportunity to speak a bit of the lingo whilst they’re out there. Some of them tried their best in the supermarket and in the hotel. Some with success and some less so.”

Through their experience within the Villarreal set-up, those that impress may, one day, gain full access to the clubs academy set up, with that potentially leading to Spain’s European giants sniffing around so the opportunities really are endless.

Following this experience, there’s no doubt that dreams are set firmly on a career in sunny Spain, Walkden High School’s current crop of youngsters still contribute toward playing for local sides, with the story of Salford City FC a source of inspiration to grass-roots players.

Walkden High School
The sun beats down on an afternoon training session

Mr. Tobutt said: “It’s great that they’re doing so well once again this year, some of our boys in Year 11 have made the progression and are playing at their academy, playing at their under-16’s. So, if the boys carry on working hard, they have those opportunities.

“On the back of some of our successes last season Salford City invited us down to some a couple of their games and they were fully supportive of our success last season.

“We’ve got boys that have just been to California with Salford Boys under-15’s… The natural progression for them now is to go to Salford City under-16’s and 17’s and the hope is that a number of them stay on, enjoy their football and make a success of it.”

Are Villarreal aiding in the training of future Salford City stars? Only time will tell. What is a certainty is that this group of boys from Walkden High School have enjoyed an invaluable experience that may well influence the rest of their lives.

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