1 Ashfield Road, Chorley, Lancashire PR7 1LH 
Late last week we received the very exciting news that 9 of the academy members at Rochdale Sacred Heart’s had been selected to train with the 1st team, and that of those 9 one had actually been selected to play for the squad- 1st year student Shaun Whelan! This was particularly impressive given Shaun is only a 1st year, and academy manager Mike Holt confirmed that a promotion of this sort has never previously happened, but that it is great for Mike’s vision of RSH Academy becoming a feeder team for talent to progress up into the professional RSH league team. With that in mind how could we not head down to RSH and talk to Shaun and some of the other boys…. 
 
Massive congratulations to all of the boys in question! 
 
1. Liam Dawson 
2. Raf Lourenco 
3. Lewis Willman 
4. Aaron Longden 
5. Shaun Whelan 
6. Hamelton Cristovao 
7. Greg Dyl 
8. Sam Huszar 
9. Joe Weja 
 
On arrival a lesson was taking place so it was a case of sneaking in and heading to the back of the room so as not to disturb events. The lesson in question was on health & well being in sport and as part of the learning the tutor had pinned images of famous sports people around the wall for the learners to go and write on the images who they thought each person was and what they were most well known for. The lesson was engaging, active and successful in getting all of the learners involved and participating (who knew Joey Barton was banned from even watching live streams of Football?! Certainly not us haha!). After the lesson was finished we found the time to sit down with Shaun and talk to him about his exciting opportunity and here’s what he had to say: 
 
You’ve been invited not to train with the first team but also to play as part of the squad, what is that like? And how did you find out? 
Yeah, I found out through Mike…. 
 
(there was a lot of laughter and a very distracted interviewee at this point owing to a lot of very entertained team mates watching the interview progress it was at this point Ant judged productivity to be at an all-time low and sent the rowdy culprits away so Shaun could focus haha!) 
 
So how did this opportunity come about? Were there scouts from the 1st team watching your games and then they saw something special in you and selected you to become part of the squad? 
It was the 1st team manager watching one of our games and he obviously thought a few of us were good enough to train with them, so we went down to train and then out of all of us I was the one that stood out and they invited me down to play on Saturday. 
 
Wow! That’s very exciting! Is that the Saturday that’s just gone? 
Yeah last Saturday 
 
How did you get on in the game? 
I played alright yeah, once I got on and considering I’m obviously a bit smaller than them (laughs) 
 
Back to the training, what sort of stuff did they have you doing? How did you stand out from the other boys? 
We were straight into doing 6-a side, 3 touch only, so basically pass the ball and move forward and I obviously was the one who impressed. 
 
Is it tiring balancing the training with the 1st team with all of your academy responsibilities? 
Nah, it’s alright. 
 
And were the 1st team welcoming of you as a newbie? 
Yeah absolutely, there’s a few that want to have a laugh but yeah they were all fine. 
 
Do you see this as the first step to becoming a full-time player in the 1st team as part of your progression? 
It would be nice to play in the 1st team full time yeah, I’d love to be a professional footballer but it’s all small steps to gradually get there. 
 
Are you a 1st or 2nd year student here at the academy? 
1st 
 
Wow, to be picked as a 1st year for the team is incredible! 
(laughs) thanks! 
 
After your time at the academy is finished do you have any other ideas for what you may like to do aside from professional football? 
I don’t know, I’m really not sure- football is the main focus now. 
 
What do you think of RSH academy? Has it been a good experience so far? 
It’s really good! 
 
Did you come straight from school to here? 
I was going to go to the Rochdale Football College Academy, but then I found out about this one and came and did a trial here so decided to come here and this one is so much better. 
 
What specifically makes it better? 
It’s all in one facility, the staff are more welcoming than Rochdale and with the work they help you with everything. It’s really good. 
 
I’ve heard similar from your teammates, that the tutors are very engaging and can be chilled out and have a laugh but at the same time be strict when they need to be. 
Yeah if you’re not doing your work or you’re messing about then you’ll soon know about it 
 
You’ll soon get pulled into the hot seat then. 
Yeah (laughs) 
 
How did you find out about the academy? 
Liam Dawson (another academy member), he was doing the Rochdale course but he moved to come here and told me all about it. 
 
Has the experience at the academy changed you at all? Do you feel as though you have grown since school through this? 
Erm, I’ve settled down a lot, at school I was always messing about but here obviously you’re surrounded by mates and all that. Look at them all (we are literally surrounded at this point haha!) so annoying (laughs). 
 
(The man of the moment; Shaun, can be seen in the centre of the left hand picture!) 
 
Up next we interviewed Raf Lourenco who had also been invited to train with the 1st team: 
 
Okay, so Raf you were invited down to train with the 1st team as well- how did you find the experience? 
Yeah it was good, we were playing against much bigger lads so it was something different. 
 
What did you think of the first team? Were they quite welcoming? 
Yeah, yeah I got along with most of them so it was really good. 
 
And were you nervous beforehand or were quite you chilled out? 
I was fine, think that was because there were people I knew there (his fellow academy members) 
.....Yes I can imagine definitely helps to have a friendly face (or 8) around! 
 
Did you find out through Mike as well? 
Yeah he texted me saying you’ve been invited to train with them, so that was decent. 
 
You’re training with them again tonight; do you find it hard to juggle the academy and then training with the 1st team afterwards? 
No, because I’ve played for more than one team before in the past so I’m used to it 
 
Are you a 1st or 2nd year at RSH? 
1st year 
 
Do you know what you want to do once this is finished? 
If I’m not playing football then I want to do a scholarship in America 
 
That’s really cool! Have you got any sporting heroes you look up to? Maybe any footballers you look at and want to emulate? 
Maybe Sergio (Aguero), just because of how successful he’s been and the different teams he’s played for. That’s obviously where I want to be when I’m older 
 
Do you see the academy as the first step on the path for your career then? 
Yeah definitely 
 
What do you think of the academy overall? Has it been a good experience? 
Yeah definitely, I mean Football is what I want to do and even when you’re in lessons we’re just talking Football all the time. 
 
And the tutors? 
Yeah they’re engaging. Well one of them is (worth noting that Ant is walking past at this point!) 
 
One of them is- will he remain nameless? 
(laughs) 
 
How did you find out about the academy? 
One of my mates, Liam, told me about the academy (looks like Liam is RSH’s unofficial spokesperson here haha!) and then Shaun told me as well. 
 
Did you come straight from school to the academy? 
Yeah I did 
 
How would you say it’s different from school? 
More freedom, you don’t get teachers pecking your head as much, so that’s why I really enjoy it more. 
 
Would you say being here as changed you as a person, do you for instance feel more settled? 
Yeah definitely, and I think being given more responsibilities as helped with that too. 
 
What about the Maths and English lessons? 
Maths and English are obviously boring subjects but the tutors manage to make it good. 
 
Finally, Hamelton Cristovao took the interview spotlight, he had also been invited to train with the first team but he unfortunately couldn’t attend the training therefore this interview was more of a general chat about the academy: 
 
What do you think of the academy in general? 
Yeah its really good 
 
Did you come here straight from school? 
No, I’ve come here from college for my last year. 
 
Okay, and how do you find RSH is different to college? 
I’d say I can be more free here and I feel much more settled here with the boys rather than at college where it was mixed. 
 
What do you think of the tutors here? 
Yes, they’re all very good. 
 
Do you have a favourite tutor? 
Obviously, Mike as I have known him for 3 years (Mike walks past “I’ll pay you later mate”), this is the 3rd year I’ve known him so we’ve built a good rapport. 
 
Do you know what you want to do after this has finished? 
Obviously, I am still trying to make it as a professional but the second option would be to become a coach, or even go to America on a scholarship 
 
Do you have any sporting heroes or favourite Football players? 
Yeah I’ve got one especially, Didier Drogba. Just because of the way he made it, starting from the bottom and living in a continent where Football was not seen much outside of Europe but he managed to get it from Europe to Africa and he made it. 
 
When you knew the manager from the 1st team was watching you all play and scouting for future talent did this make you nervous before/during playing? 
No, I’m always confident in my abilities. I’m not trying to sound cocky or anything, I’m just confident in myself and I’ve played for previous academies where they’ve had similar people around watching the games. 
 
Finally, would you recommend RSH Academy to other young males who love Football and enjoy playing? 
Yes, yes absolutely. 
 
Through spending more time at RSH Academy, observing lessons and training in action, and talking to the learners it really gives a clearer picture of what the academy is like. The boys have used words to describe engaging tutors who they can have a laugh with (we can confirm this is correct from our observations haha!), a great sense of team spirit within the year groups- the boys have expressed they feel more settled at RSH compared to college and school. And, finally the potential RSH Academy has to be the first step in a career to becoming a professional footballer- as shown by a number of them being selected to train with the first team and Shaun’s progression to play with the first team! Rochdale Sacred Hearts are also now recruiting for their 2018/19 season, so if you are aged 16-18 and love Football you won't want to miss this opportunity! Call Mike Holt on 07717878382 for an informal chat or email mholt40@hotmail.co.uk to express an interest. 
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