Kiwi kid on trial for Man United

01:43, Jan 31 2009
DREAM SHOT: Under-17 goalie Jake Gleeson thought it was a joke when told he was spotted by a scout for a famous British soccer club. ANDREW GORRIE/Dominion Post

From Johnsonville's Alex Moore Park to one of the world's greatest soccer stadiums - Old Trafford.

Jake Gleeson, 17, has been plucked from obscurity for a trial next month with Manchester United, one of the biggest clubs in the game.

But he heads overseas to embark on every footballer's dream with a secret - he's actually a Liverpool fan and will also showcase his skills at staunch local rival Everton.

The goalkeeper, who impressed for New Zealand at the Under-17 World Cup last month in South Korea, was spotted by an English scout who approached his father, Pat, at the tournament.

Gleeson said he thought it was a gag when he heard about the scout's interest.

But the e-mails from England followed and now he is just waiting for the plane tickets.


"When Pat told me, I thought this is a joke, no premiership club would want a goalkeeper from New Zealand," he said.

"When I found it was true, it was pretty hard to believe. It's cool but I haven't quite got round to believing it yet, I guess."

The 1.93-metre Newlands College pupil, from the Wellington suburb of Johnsonville, impressed the scout during his team's 7-0 defeat to Brazil, when he produced a string of fine saves.

Gleeson has landed the all-expenses-paid trip for one-week trials at both Manchester United and Everton.

He admits he does not know who he is meeting or what to expect when he hops off the plane.

Manchester United, the current English premier league champions, are the world's most popular football team, boasting household names, including Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"That would be awesome, to meet them," Gleeson said. "I wouldn't mind going to a premiership game."

The Liverpool supporter said he would be "keeping that fact quiet" while at Everton.

Diving around on the Alex Moore Park ground on which he played as a junior is a world away from the Old Trafford stadium, known as the Theatre of Dreams.

New Zealand under-17 coach Colin Tuaa said Gleeson was only called into the squad as an injury replacement last year but had since made "some quite amazing progress" to star at the World Cup.

"It's very, very exciting for any New Zealand player and we're very excited for him."

The Dominion Post