Captain Cook’s call-up to the England Schools football squad

Matthew Cook is congratulated for making the England Schools squad by his DESA colleagues. Picture:

Matthew Cook is congratulated for making the England Schools squad by his DESA colleagues. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

Talented teenage footballers in Norfolk are being urged to follow in Matthew Cook's footsteps after he bagged an England call-up, writes Gavin Caney.

Matthew Cook. Picture: SUBMITTED

Matthew Cook. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

The Dereham Education and Soccer Academy (DESA) student, who also stars for the town's non-league football club, has gained a coveted place in the country's national schools squad. DESA programme manager Lee Perry is delighted with the youngster's achievement and is sure the Norfolk Under-18s captain's success can inspire a generation.

Perry said: 'From day one Matt had a clear goal of representing the first team and his country and this was one of the main reasons he chose to come on our programme.

'He has embraced the demand and expectations of our course and he has got his rewards. This achievement is great for all boys in Norfolk and shows that if you set goals and are willing to work hard to achieve them you can do well academically and in football.

'Matthew is also gaining excellent academic results which have given him a choice of some of the top universities in the country. The environment that we provide allows boys to express themselves and follow their dreams.'

Cook becomes the first player in DESA's short history to earn international honours. The 18-year-old joined the academy, which has strong links with Ryman League North Dereham Town, in 2014 – a year after it was formed. Having made his name as a central midfielder with Poringland Wanderers, Cook has gained a place in the team that former King's Lynn Town prospect Shaun Stocker once represented as a left-sided centre-back.

'Matt's development in the under-18s, under-19s and reserves at Dereham in the past 18 months has been outstanding,' said DESA under-19 manager Tom Parke.

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'He is an excellent person on and off the pitch and is a delight to work with. He shows phenomenal leadership qualities as well as having the will to win and desire to succeed. His hard work married with his talent has earned him the ultimate accolade. We are all so proud of him.'

Dereham first-team boss Matt Henman, who helped oversee the Magpies' fine FA Youth Cup run this season – which involved Cook as skipper – and has named the defender in his senior squad regularly this term, added: 'It's a historic day for us all and Matt fully deserves the reward of representing his country.'

DESA's Sam Lawn and Robbie Linford also reached the final trial which saw 14 players full agonisingly short of making the 18-man squad.