Sunderland College student Harry Gardiner has signed his first professional contract with boyhood club Sunderland AFC.
The 18-year-old forward impressed the Black Cats during a trial while part of the college’s Football Academy in partnership with South Shields FC and initially joined the club on a scholarship in 2021.
After standing out for the club’s U18 side last season, where he scored eight goals in 24 appearances as well as featuring for the U23s, Harry was offered a one-year-deal at the Academy of Light.
He said: “It feels amazing to sign professionally at here, it’s a real proud moment for myself and my family, who are Sunderland fans. Whilst I’ve been fit, I feel that I’ve come on well as a player here and this is just the start.”
Harry joined South Shields FC’s Academy in 2020 while studying Sport, History and Criminology at Bede Campus and is expected to leave college with high grades this summer.
“I would like to thank Sunderland College for giving the opportunity to explore my educational options within a dual career,” he added.
“I have really enjoyed my time at college, the lessons have been engaging and the staff so friendly and approachable.
“Although it has been a difficult time for us all [during the pandemic] the college has been so helpful, supportive and understanding, especially during my time with Sunderland to ensure I could fully concentrate on my scholarship.”
The Football Academy was established in 2017 when Sunderland College teamed up with South Shields FC to create a sport and education programme which combines high-quality coaching and competitive matches with a range of academic pathways including A-Levels and vocational courses.
Harry is the latest in a long line of players who have progressed from the Academy into professional and semi-professional football or secured USA scholarships, following in the footsteps of former Huddersfield Town forward Will McCamley, and South Shields FC players Joao Gomes, Will Jenkins and Sam Hodgson, to name a few.
In 2021, Sunderland College also partnered with Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light to give hundreds of young people across the North East greater access to qualifications, sports and employment opportunities.
The college supports the charity’s Football and Futsal Scholarships through a dual-career pathway at its Bede and City campuses, offering students a choice of technical and vocational qualifications ranging from Sports Coaching and Development and Sport and Exercise Sciences to Engineering and Business, A-Levels, or a mix of both.
Following a successful first year, which saw the women’s scholarship team win the NFYL League Cup at Bolton Wanderers FC’s University of Bolton Stadium, students will be heading to prestigious UK and USA universities, progressing to Sunderland College’s higher education courses, onto apprenticeships and into employment.
Dan Finney, Sports Academies and Partnerships Manager at Education Partnership North East, of which Sunderland College is a part, said: “XXXX.”
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Our achievement rates are well above the national average.
We are the College of the Year.
(*Top college nationally for BTECs, Pearson 2019)
100% of our HND and HNC students progressed to employment or further study.
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We have recently invested £50 million in our facilities.