Young footballers in hot demand

BRIGHT FUTURE: Monty Patterson, 16, is looking forward to a lifetime of football.
Jason Oxenham
BRIGHT FUTURE: Monty Patterson, 16, is looking forward to a lifetime of football.

Monty Patterson is a young man with a big decision to make.

The 16-year-old Eastern Suburbs footballer trialled with professional English football club Ipswich Town last month.

And he came home with a two-year youth contract.

"They basically pulled me aside and said they were going to offer me a spot. I was pretty surprised. Pleasantly surprised though, it's exciting."

But that's not all.

Patterson has just been offered a full scholarship to study at Loyola University in Chicago when he graduates from Mt Albert Grammar at the end of next year.

"They're two pretty good offers to be honest," Patterson says.

"It's a hard choice but it's not a bad situation to be in."

Ipswich want him back in July so he will have to do some fast thinking, he says.

"I would love to be a professional one day. That's obviously my final goal. It's just about getting there."

Patterson plays on the wing and divides his time between the Mt Albert Grammar premier side, the Eastern Suburbs First XI and the New Zealand under-17 team.

He lives in Whenuapai and trains at least once a day.

"It's my passion. There's just nothing else I would rather be doing."

Former All White coach Kevin Fallon works with Patterson in both his school and club teams.

He says Patterson's attitude sets him apart.

"It always looked like he was going to be a footballer," he says.

"He had what I call the ‘eye of the tiger'."

Both offers have advantages for the young footballer in his coach's opinion.

Players often jump at the chance to go to England but there are also positives in having a university education to fall back on, he says.

"He's got a lot of pondering to do in the next few months. But he works hard so he can make it work either way."

Eastern Suburbs First XI assistant coach Mark Holt says Patterson is a real stand-out for his age.

But the professional football road is a hard one to travel, he says.

"I think it just shows where players in New Zealand can go. But it's not easy. I've gone to England and tried it myself. For a Kiwi it's much harder."

Another young Eastern Suburbs footballer also took his game overseas this year.

Ponsonby Primary schoolboy Otto Ingham, 11, played futsal at the Barcelona Football Club for three weeks in January.

His father John Ingham says the experience improved his son's confidence.

"Barca is the big club so he was very nervous about going. He's basically come home knowing he is good enough."

Otto trained at the club's La Masia youth centre with 12 other young futsal players.

The Grey Lynn family will go back to Barcelona with Otto in May for club trials.

"He dreams of being a footballer but he's 11. It's all a bit of fun at the moment."

East And Bays Courier