LIAM MACKEY: Remember the name: Charlie Purcell

HE might be just 12 but, already, Charlie Purcell is following in the footsteps of some famous football names.

Charlie, from Glenbeigh in Kerry, recently won the International Skills competition at the world-renowned Bobby Charlton Soccer School in Manchester, an honour which has been bestowed on the likes of David Beckham and Stephen Ireland among others.

The achievement also means that he qualifies for the World Skills final which will take place in September.

Charlie’s mother Sarah, who is originally from the football-mad city of Liverpool, cheerfully admits that her son was “brain-washed from the moment he was born” and takes delight in pointing out that he shares the same birthday, December 14, as Michael Owen. His proud father Jer is also a big football fan (and another Liverpool supporter) but, says Sarah, “Charlie is the one that’s got all the drive, he’s the one that wants to do it.”

Sarah confesses that, at first, she didn’t fully grasp the significance of her son’s success in Manchester.

“I thought that, like at a lot of football camps, he would just get a certificate,” she says.

“It wasn’t until the coach said, ‘do you not realise what Charlie just won?’ I said, ‘no’. And he said, ‘David Beckham won the same thing’. In fact, about 10 of the past winners are professionals now.”

Citing Steven Gerrard as his favourite player, Charlie, who is the eldest of three children, confirms that his dream is indeed to make it as a professional footballer.

Playing for his club side Killorglin, he alternates between left and right back but, at the Bobby Charlton School, grabbed the limelight having been pushed up to play on the left side of midfield. Charlie, however, seemed to take the change in his stride.

“It was kind of the same because it was all running up the wing,” he says. Still, he admits that the course — which included tests for passing, dribbling, shooting and juggling/control — was tough. “I thought I’d done well,” he says, “but I was shocked when they told me I’d won.”

With school out for summer, he can now devote all his hours to training for the World Skills competition back in Manchester in September. “I go running as well each night,” he says. Asked if he’s enjoying all the media attention, the level-headed youngster replies, “Well, kind of.” Far more important, he agrees, is that he continues to practice and, above all, enjoy his football.

But as a little reminder that his success could be the first step to even greater things, here’s what a previous winner of the International Skills competition has had to say about the experience.

“I had a chance to go to the Bobby Charlton Soccer School and that was a great experience for me because I ended up winning it the second year I went. And, apparently, Bobby Charlton gave my name to Manchester United for them to look at me.”

That was David Beckham speaking. Not a bad example for young Charlie to follow though, needless to day, you suspect that the Purcells will be even happier if their boy ends up wearing the red of Liverpool rather than Manchester United.


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