Learners aiming to kick-start careers in football
Two Emrys ap Iwan learners aiming to kick-start careers as professional footballers have already totted up 10 international caps between them.
Centre-back Billy Sass Davies has trained with Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, while defender Ashleigh Mills is planning to crack the American soccer scene.
The pair are both regulars for their respective Wales international teams as well as their domestic clubs, while juggling the demands of schoolwork.
Ashleigh, 16, who plays for Prestatyn Girls Under 16s, has already lined up for Wales against teams from England, Ireland, Finland and Iceland.
School football team captain Billy, 15, trains three times a week at Crewe Alexandra, the club credited with launching the careers of top players such as Robbie Savage, Danny Murphy and David Platt among others.
He played for Wales at Under 15 level winning caps after representing his country twice against Poland as well as Switzerland and Belgium. And the commanding centre-back is hoping to be included in the Wales squad for a match against France next month.
He said: “I enjoy being in the Wales squad and meeting up for training sessions and playing games. Last month we had two one hour sessions with Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, who is currently completing his coaching badges, which was amazing.
“I started off at Liverpool, I was there from age six to 11 before joining the Everton academy. I was at Everton from age 11 to 14 and then I went to Crewe, which I really enjoy.
“I support Everton and hope one day to get a professional contract but there’s a lot of hard work to do before then.”
He added: “I also enjoy playing for the Emrys ap Iwan team and I’m captain, which is a big honour. We reached the quarter-finals of the Welsh Cup this year and are North West Wales champions which is amazing.
“I’ve always had a lot of support from my parents and the school, especially the PE staff. I’ve always been encouraged to work hard at sport while not forgetting all the other important school lessons.”
Defender Ashleigh, who supports Manchester United, says she is hoping to be called up the next Wales squad after already having played six times for Wales at Under 16 level.
She said: “We don’t find out whether we are in the squad until a letter arrives. We meet up for five-day training camps in Cardiff every other month.
“So far I’ve played against the Republic of Ireland on two occasions as well as away games in England and Iceland and a home fixture against Finland in Cardiff.
“I really want to get a soccer scholarship in America. The women’s game is much bigger there although it is growing here in the UK. I’d like to study sports science but I know the competition will be tough.
“All I can do is my best. The teaching staff at Emrys ap Iwan have been amazing and really encouraged me to fulfil my potential.
“I was in the school girls’ team for Years 7, 8 and 9, and now I play for Prestatyn Girls U16s - we have just won the North Wales Girls’ League, so I do get regular game time.”
PE teacher and assistant curriculum leader Darren Doyle-Howson says he is delighted both Billy and Ashleigh are playing international football and representing Wales.
He said: “They have done really well and managed to juggle their sporting ambitions with their academic studies.
“It must be difficult for Billy to go over to Crewe three times a week for training but he has never allowed his school work to suffer.
“Both Billy and Ashleigh deserve their success and I hope to see them both earn full-time contracts in the future. They are a credit to themselves and the school.”
Head teacher Lee Cummins said: “We encourage our learners to aim high and I am delighted that Ashleigh and Billy have set themselves such competitive targets as playing professionally, once they have completed their studies.
“We recognise that competing in sport at an international level takes not only skill but also commitment, hard work and drive. Both of them are to commended for ensuring that their studies stays pace with their sporting achievements.”