Current pupil Sam Walker has a big couple of months ahead of him. The Sixth Form pupil has once again made the cut to be included in the Scottish Schools’ FA U18 squad, as well as revising for final exams!
Sam was also chosen to participate in the U18 squad last year alongside Nathan Brown (SMC 2018 leaver).
He is now regularly meeting up with the best school footballers in the country for training and warm-up matches ahead of the prestigious Centenary Shield tournament that begins in March. The young Scottish team will start the tournament with a match away to Northern Ireland before hosting England and the Republic of Ireland in a six-day spell at home, and then travel to take on Wales in April.
“To be selected again is great, I am really pleased,” the striker explained. “The standard at the trials was really good so I had to get my head down and work hard to make the cut, but it was worth it.”
“I am proud to represent Stewart’s Melville College on a wider stage because it shows people that the football programme here is getting better and better. It may make younger pupils keen to play football for the school teams when the opportunity rises.”
Sam’s football journey began at a young age - with two older brothers who loved the sport it was inevitable - and he remembers always kicking a ball around.
“My dad liked football too, so we were always playing, and my brothers tried to teach me,” he recounts. “In terms of school football, I have always been proud to play for Stewart’s Melville and started playing there in the latter years of primary school.
“SMC have teams in S5 and Sixth Form too and as I was growing up I saw my brothers playing in the Scottish Independent Schools’ FA Cup - I was keen to have my chance!
“It’s also slightly different playing for the school team rather than a club as you’re playing with a lot of mates you have grown up with.
“The school teams (SMC have two in the Scottish Independent Schools’ FA Cup at under-18 level) are improving now too because the coaching and set-up we have is helping us progress as a group.”
At time of writing, the SMC ‘A’ team are top of the East League in that tournament with four wins from four to date while the ‘B’ team are doing well up against some other ‘A’ teams.
Performances from Sam in games for the Scottish Independent Schools’ own National Team, competing in the National Trophy, again helped him get into the Scottish Schools’ FA U18 squad.
“Last year I loved playing for Scotland. To be out there and singing the national anthem takes some beating,” Sam stated.
“We played away against England last year in York and I’m not sure many people expected us to get a result, but we won 2-0 so that was a big moment for us. After that experience and the rest of the games, it left me wanting more and it will be great to pull on a Scotland strip again in March and April and take on some of our rivals.”
His sporting journey has certainly been exciting and successful so far, but it is showing no signs of stopping yet! When Sam leaves school this summer, he is set to move to America to continue with both his education and football career.
Sam explained: “I will be going to Southern Oregon University and I cannot wait! I spoke to their head coach [Davie Carmichael] and he is from Glasgow originally. Their football programme sounds well respected and just ticked all the boxes for me.
“I will always remember school fondly and the times with the football team, that’s for sure.”
Sam has gotten used to juggling his football commitments with school work and says the staff at Stewart’s Melville College have been helpful in helping him balance his time correctly. Jeff Marsh, the teacher in charge of football at SMC, said: “We are all very proud of Sam and what he has achieved.
“It’s great that he still plays for the school team when he can and to see him in the Scottish Schools’ FA U18 squad once again is brilliant. We know he will give his all in the Centenary Shield, while having guys in these kind of representative teams shows others who play football at the school what can be achieved. Sam conducts himself well and that’s a big part of what we promote within the football programme here. Values, such as respect, commitment and integrity, are crucial to everything that goes on.”
We all wish Sam and his teammates the best of luck as the tournament gets underway!
Article by Gary Heatly