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STUDENTS on the Plymouth Argyle Football Education programme prepared for the new season with a superb double success at their Premier League counterparts from Sunderland.

The Pilgrims were invited to the North-East for a two-day tour that gave them an insight into the glamorous world of a massive football club, competing against some of the best young footballers in a notoriously powerful region for youth football.

The youngsters with Argyle are undertaking a BTEC Level 3 in Sports Development & Coaching, while also benefiting from a full coaching and fixture schedule with our team of UEFA qualified coaches.

“We took 16 lads to Sunderland, 12 of those going into their second year of the programme and four members of the new intake starting in September,” said Lead Coach Lee Hodges. “It’s a totally different environment for the new lads and they all mixed fantastically well.

“We were going into the unknown at Sunderland, playing against boys who haven’t quite made the grade at clubs like Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough. They are obviously good players and we couldn’t possibly know what kind of level we would face.

“Our boys took everything on board that we asked them to do and we spoke about the way we wanted to play, and the finer details to set-pieces and shape, which is all very new to the first-years.

“We had the pleasure of playing at Sunderland’s Academy and the pitches were a whole different level. It looked like astro-turf even though it was grass and the facilities were fantastic. We also had a tour at the Stadium of Light.

“It was great for them to experience a Premier League club and they conducted themselves fantastically well. On the pitch, we were very proud to win both games and this can only propel them forward on the programme.

“They now know what it’s like to play in a professional environment. Our boys are just the same as those at Sunderland; they’ve not made the Academy grade yet but trying to push forward on the football ladder.”

The first game was played on a drizzly afternoon at Sunderland’s Academy of Light and the Pilgrims produced a stunning fightback to shock their illustrious hosts.

A looping finish gave Sunderland an early lead but the leveller was a scorching 25 yard free-kick from Tallan Mitchell. We made a number of substitutions with Charlie Lawrie and Louis Brace making a real impact before fellow replacement Reece Thompson tapped-in the winner from a Jake Anderson corner in injury time.

The boys were back out for a rematch 24 hours later and Sunderland simply could not cope with the swift passing movement from Argyle, as Anderson gave us a deserved lead.

Brace and Lawrie then scored in quick succession to leave the home side floundering. A bullet header from Zak Griffiths made it 4-0 before half-time. A comprehensive win was complete midway through the second half with a long-range drive from Thompson.

To find out more about the Football Education programme with Argyle Community Trust, please contact Lead Tutor and Coach Lee Britchford on 01752 562561 ext.4 or email

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