Video: Young football stars proud to answer England's call
FOUR promising young footballers are roaring with pride after being called up to play for the Three Lions.
James Playford, 17, and Matthew Riley, 17, have been selected for the English Colleges Football Association Under-17s national squad while Laura Bartup, 16, and Emily Roberts, 17, were called up for the women's team.
All four are students at the Grimsby Institute and play for the respective Academy teams at the Nuns Corner campus
Playford has just returned from representing the England at the Under-17s Caput Mundi Tournament in Rome earlier this month.
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Riley, who like Playford was with Grimsby Town as a youngster, was also scheduled to travel to Italy, but had to pull out at the last minute because of injury.
Another Institute player – Connor Southern, 17 – was put on standby for the trip.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Playford, a midfielder for Cleethorpes Town reserves, said: "It was a great experience to go out there.
"The level of football that was played was a completely different standard and to test myself against that was a real challenge, but it was fantastic.
"To represent your country at any level is a huge honour and to sing the national anthem before the games really meant a lot to me – it was incredible.
"In our group stage, we had Romania and San Marino.
"They were the proper national squads at that level, so it was a really high standard.
"It meant that I was playing against some of the best young players in the world, so it was brilliant to test myself against them.
"Some of the football they played was breath-taking and it gave me an idea of the levels I'll have to reach to make it professional."
Riley, who plays for Humbertherm, added that despite missing out on the trip, he also hopes to use the call-up as a springboard to break into the professional game.
"I got a knee ligament injury just before we were due to fly out," the striker explained.
"It was disappointing but it was great to just be called up in the first place. It was a great achievement for me and I was proud.
"Hopefully, after being called-up, I've put my name forward and I can feature again in the future.
"I'd like to use the call-up as a springboard to go professional – that's the ultimate aim."
Bartup, who lives in Goxhill and plays for the Lincoln Ladies Centre of Excellence, hopes that her national call-up will lead to her playing against a Welsh colleges side next month.
Roberts, who is a member of Lincoln's first team, is currently away with England's full Under-19s women's squad.
It is the first time that two of the Institute's female footballers have been selected for a national side.
Bartup said: "The Women's squad was announced just before Christmas and there was supposed to be a one-day training camp in Bristol last week but because of the weather, it got cancelled.
"But there is a game against Wales next month and apparently there's a training camp coming up in Estonia, so hopefully I will be able to take part in those.
"It would be fantastic for me," she added.
"I started playing football when I was about eight or nine.
"I went for trials at Winterton and got in there and then moved to Hull, where I played for six years, before Hull closed and I moved to Lincoln, where I'm in my second season.
"To now get called up for a national squad is amazing – I was so shocked when I got the call, I couldn't believe it.
"If I do get to play, I would be playing at Under–19 level and I'm still only 16 so it's a good achievement to get called up."
John McDermott, the Institutes' Academy Development Officer and Grimsby Town's record appearance holder, said: "We've always done well with getting students into national squads in the past, but this year we've done particularly well.
"For these four, to be called up to represent their country, it's fantastic.
"It is the first time that we've managed to get two girls into a national squad so it's a great achievement for both them and the Institute."
Gary Childs, himself a former Mariner and now Football Academy Co-ordinator at the Institute, tipped all four footballers for big things in the future.
"They're all great characters", he said.
"James is a great talent. If we can keep him focused on where he needs to be, he'll go far. We believe he's got everything, it's just a case of him believing it.
"Matty's got everything you want in a footballer so he'll go far.
"The girls are both exceptionally talented as well and showing great promise."