The Dereham teenager called up by England

Ashton Fox is the only Norfolk player to be chosen as part of English Schools' Football Association (ESFA) 18-man squad.

Ashton Fox is the only Norfolk player to be chosen as part of English Schools' Football Association (ESFA) 18-man squad. - Credit: Supplied

Representing England at football is a dream for many. But for one 17-year-old, it's about to become a reality.

Centre-back Ashton Fox, who currently plays for Dereham Town, was the only player from Norfolk named as part of an 18-man squad for the England U18's Schoolboys' squad selected by English Schools' Football Association (ESFA).

His father, John Fox - a former Dereham Town goalkeeper - said how proud he was that his son was the only Norfolk player to be chosen.

"I've seen his dedication and commitment first-hand," he said.

"I'm very proud of him and it is a reward for all the effort he's put in - I couldn't be more proud."

Ashton's application for the squad was submitted by Dereham Education Soccer Academy (DESA) and he was invited to attend a series of trials against players from other areas of the country, with the final test held at the Lilleshall National Sports Centre.

"DESA have had a major impact on him and Ashton has learned so much," added Mr Fox.

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"Before that, the junior side 'Personal Best Soccer' was also valuable and Ashton definitely benefitted from those experiences."

The successful boys progressed through a rigorous selection process from October until December to be finally selected to represent their country for the 2021/2022 season.

This final squad will go on to compete in some friendly matches in the new year, including a game against the RAF.

They will then be involved in some preparatory training before their competitive fixtures at the end of the season in the prestigious Centenary Shield.  

Mark Hignett, ESFA chairman, said: “We are delighted to be able to name this year’s England U18 Schoolboys’ squad today.

"It’s a fantastic achievement for these players to have made it through what is a tough trials process, to be able to go on and represent their school, district, county and their country for this year’s international season."

From 1984 and 1999, some of English football's best players, such as Michael Owen, Sol Campbell and Jamie Carragher, spent time at the Football Association's School of Excellence at Lilleshall.

Now a premier sporting venue and centre of excellence, Lilleshall National Sports Centre provides world-class facilities to sports clubs and organisations both nationally and internationally, as well as to the local community.