When Gareth Southgate broke into the first team squad at Crystal Palace you’d have struggled to find anyone who thought he’d end up as an international footballer. If you’d have suggested he’d one day be the manager of an exciting, progressive England side, which reached the semi-finals of the World Cup, you’d probably have been laughed out of town.
But, for Gareth Southgate, hard work and dedication has paid off and nobody is happier for him than his former Eagles team-mate Eddie McGoldrick.
Eddie, who is the leader of Northampton College’s Foundation Football Academy, run in conjunction with Crystal Palace, was a senior pro at Selhurst Park when Southgate was cutting his teeth in the professional game.
He remembers a slightly awkward lad, not blessed with pace, silky skills or natural ability but a determination to make the most of what he had and an appetite to learn.
He said: “Gareth is the perfect example of someone who has worked hard to get where he is today. He was always looking to better himself, asking questions, working out how he could improve his game.
“In many ways he is the perfect role model for youngsters starting out in the game today. The difference between top pros and those struggling in non-league is not necessarily talent, it’s a work ethic.
“Gareth knew he had to work harder than others to get the opportunities he craved and that’s exactly what he did. He dedicated himself to football, he ignored the distractions and he remained true to himself. To see where he is today is testimony to the man he has become. That young lad from Crawley has become a man known, admired and respected around the world. He’s a credit to himself.”
It’s that work ethic and dedication which Eddie is so keen to instil among the 65-plus students already enrolled in Northampton College’s first intake for the new Foundation Football Academy programme.
The programme offers youngsters the opportunity to receive Premier League standard coaching while pursuing their academic studies, blending their passion for sport with vital life skills.
Students will get the chance to play against teams from other Premier League clubs, including Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle United – showcasing their skills in front of the eagle eyes of top level scouting networks.
Breaking into the elite level of professional sport is notoriously difficult and Eddie is under no illusions as to the likelihood of students hitting the big time.
He said: “It’s hard, really hard. You can have all the ability in the world but without hard work you’ll get nowhere. We will stress to everyone on the course the importance of hard work and commitment. We will encourage everyone to be the best they can be and to focus just as much on their academic studies as they do on their football.
“We will prepare young people for a life away from football but we will do all we can to help them secure a life within football as well. If we can help create the next Gareth Southgate then so much the better.”
The Northampton College Foundation Football Academy starts in August.
Football’s Coming Home.
For more details please visit: https://www.northamptoncollege.ac.uk/footballacademy