Academy 360’s Ben Sawyers has taken his first steps towards realising his dream of becoming a professional player with selection for Sunderland Football Club’s Under 13s.
The young right-back was chosen from a pool of talented youngsters in highly competitive trials at Silksworth Sports Complex to represent the side this season.
It’s a big step up in class for Ben, whose extra training with his Dad over the summer has paid off, adding more stamina to his game.
Ben, 12, from South Hylton, is a keen Sunderland fan, and practices his skills at home on a mini-football pitch in his garden with his younger brother.
He plays for Washington AFC Lions in the Russell Foster Under 13 Division One, with the club enjoying a successful start to their league campaign, lying fourth after five games.
Ben has scored twice this season, a great return for a roving full back, with both goals coming from free kicks in his first season playing 11-a-side on a full pitch.
“I want to be a professional player, I think I’ve got a good chance,” said Ben. “The strengths of my game are definitely the accuracy in my passing and dribbling through players.
“I’ve worked very hard over pre-season to get my fitness levels up and I feel good. It’s my dream to play professional football.
“My Dad is a coach for our football team and I’ll ask him to train me a bit more at home now I’m in the Under 13s.”
Academy 360 Principal Rachel Donohue said: “Ben has impressed his peers and his teachers with his football talent and we are delighted that he has gained regional recognition at such a young age. Ben is an excellent role model and we wish him every success.”
Ben’s football heroes are Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi while Jermain Defoe was his favourite Sunderland player before his summer move to Bournemouth.
“I’ve got a piece of astro turf in the front garden so I play football on there with my little brother, we’ve got a goal up to shoot into,” said Ben, who has a future career in sport mapped out if his pro football career doesn’t materialise.
“If I don’t get to the professional stage, I’ll probably play semi-pro in the Northern League if I could and then pursue PE teaching.
“I started playing football when I was four-years-old and I just grew up with it and enjoy playing it, it makes me feel relaxed.”