Belfast Telegraph

Meet the Northern Irish teenager who has signed for Chelsea

By Brett Campbell

A County Londonderry teenager is a step closer to fulfilling his dream of becoming a Premier League footballer after he swapped the classroom for Chelsea Football Club.

Sam McClelland (16), who signed a contract with the London giants within days of finishing his GCSEs at Limavady Grammar School, described making the move to London as "a no-brainer".

He said: "It's a massive step to leave school and everything behind, but it's what I've always wanted to do and I know that if I want to become a professional footballer I can't stay at home.

"Playing in the Premier League is something that I have dreamed of for years."

The teenager, who captained the Northern Ireland under-17s squad in Malta during the European Championship qualifiers last year, is currently at a pre-season training camp with the under-18s youth squad in Spain, which he admitted is a lot tougher than training at home.

"At home I worked a lot with my strength and conditioning coach Oliver Cummings, so that has helped a lot," he explained.

The former Coleraine FC Academy player hopes the move will also put him one step closer to playing for his country.

"This could be a factor towards playing for Northern Ireland - to represent my country would be special and would definitely be the proudest day of my life," he said.

Proud parents Richard (50) and Sharon (49), and his sister Sophie, said they "could not be more proud" of Sam who started playing the game at Joe Doherty's mini weekend soccer camp when he was just five years old.

"He was playing for Limavady Youths by the time he was eight and joined the Coleraine Academy within a couple of years - he only left there last week," dad Richard said.

"His talent meant that he always played with the squad which was a year ahead."

Like Sam, Richard is a Manchester United supporter, but now has "a wee soft spot" for rivals Chelsea.

"I have been over and seen the facilities and where Sam will be staying and they are fantastic - I'm satisfied that they are going to look after him," Richard said.

John Gregg is head of youth development at Coleraine FC Academy. He said everyone there is excited for Sam and what the future holds for him.

He commented: "This is what he has always wanted and we are right behind him.

"He's from the group of kids from our first real wave of players which validates all the work we have put in to create opportunities for our young people.

"Sam is a great kid on the pitch and off it which is just as important, and we wish him all the best."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph