YORK College student Tom Spence is hoping to represent his country in Brazil next year after earning a call-up to the England Learning Difficulties squad.
Centre-forward Spence was spotted by former Aston Villa European Cup-winning captain Dennis Mortimer during a football development centre training session at Sim Balk Lane.
He was subsequently invited by Mortimer to trial for the Three Lions representative side at St George’s Park – the FA’s newly-opened national coaching centre in Burton – and, after impressing, is now looking forward to being involved in March’s friendly fixture against Wales.
Other tournaments are also planned later in the year as the team build towards the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
On that prospect, art and design pupil Spence said: “Wow. That would be a life-changing dream.
“I’ve always wanted to play to the best level I can and playing for England will be a honour.”
Training at St George’s, itself, was also a privilege for Spence, who has played for Bolton Hall School, Sherburn White Rose and Tadcaster Magnets in the past.
Speaking about the state-of-the-art training base, he added: “The pitches are perfect, the staff are amazing and the quality of the accommodation was great.”
Keal Teamwear have supported Spence by sponsoring his York College kit and he has also benefited from the coaching knowledge of former York City favourite Gordon Staniforth – the college’s football development centre co-ordinator.
Staniforth is delighted with Spence’s call-up, saying: “Tom has found a focus playing football at college and this has really helped him to progress in his studies.
“He has received first-class support here and being selected to play for England has given him a great boost. We are very proud of him.”
Three other York College footballers have also caught the eye of the international selectors.
Left-back Elliott Moore is currently representing the English Colleges’ FA Under-17s in a Rome tournament that also features teams from Italy, Romania and San Marino.
Women’s Premier League player Bekki Bass, meanwhile, has been selected for the ladies’ U19 squad and Genevieve O’Hara is now a member of the England Women’s Deaf squad.
Moore is a 16-year-old B-tec sports coaching and leadership level three student and has been converted into a full-back, having previously operated as a striker or midfielder for Knaresborough Celtic and his former schools St John Fisher in Harrogate and St Mary’s in Knaresborough.
Ahead of his European trip, Moore said: “I’m used to playing teams in my area and other areas in the country for college but I did not think I would get the chance to play international football so it will be a good experience.”
The Sunderland supporter also harbours aspirations of following his mentor Staniforth into the professional game, saying: “He’s been a professional and I would love to be a professional footballer. Whether that will happen I don’t know, but he’s such a good person to learn from.”
O’Hara is an 18-year-old defender who has been playing football since she was five. She is a sports and exercise science pupil and will attend an England camp in February ahead of a tournament in Greece over the summer.
Former Tadcaster Grammar pupil and North Yorkshire Centre of Excellence player Bass, who is also an 18-year-old sport and exercise science student, also plays for Premier League Leeds United and scored two goals from the right wing last season.
Elsewhere, York College basketball development centre emerged victorious from an 18-team British Colleges Regional basketball tournament after beating Huddersfield New College 63-62 in a thrilling final.
On that achievement, delighted coach Dave Smith said: “We started slowly and improved as the tournament progressed. The players rose to the occasion with Alex Metcalfe and Hung-Kai Wang outstanding in the final.
“We are now looking forward to competing against other regional winners at Bath University in April.”