Even before they set foot on the pitch, the ISFA team were wowed by the sheer scale of the training facilities at Carrington Road. “It’s spectacular,” said Charlie. “It’s absolutely mind-blowing. There’s a huge building for the 1st team and 12 changing rooms just for the Academy. It was a real thrill to be there.”
The Manchester Academy team train several times a week, as do Liverpool and Aston Villa. The ISFA squad, by contrast, which draws together talented players from independent schools across the country, meet to train together once every few months during school holidays.
Nevertheless, in their opening match against the hosts, they “came out of the blocks” and held their own from the start. The lead was secured before half-time and they scored two further goals in quick succession early in the second half, to win an historic victory over their somewhat stunned opponents.
Although the ISFA team lost their next two matches – “We were tired,” said Charlie. “We’d given everything in that first game and we’re just not as match-fit as they are” – they nevertheless played well and finished the day on a high.
Charlie is looking forward to trials for the U16 ISFA squad next term and to pre-season trials for Shrewsbury Town in June. While football has been his passion ever since he can remember, at school he has also been making his mark in the Hunt. Last October he travelled to East Africa for the Hunt’s pre-season training in Kenya and Ethiopia – reluctantly missing an ISFA development camp – and he has just finished an excellent season, winning medals in the Coventry Relays and the Midlands & Northern Schools' Cross-Country Championships and 18th place in the national Knole Run. Last Sunday he won the Junior Quarter-Mile Challenge (see report) and very nearly snatched a double-victory, coming a close second in the Junior Sidney-Darwin Dash.
To see an interview with Charlie about the Hunt's East Africa Tour, please see: RSSH East Africa Tour - BBC Midlands Today report