Ashington schoolgirl selected to join prestigious Sunderland football academy

A ten-year-old girl from Ashington has won a place at Sunderland Football Club’s academy.

By Joshua Wright
Friday, 29th July 2022, 2:25 pm
Updated Friday, 29th July 2022, 2:25 pm

Matilda (Tilly) Coombs started playing football at her school St Aidan’s primary, which is a member of the Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust.

It did not take her long to master the sport, and her skills were soon recognised by head teacher and football coach Michael Moran.

With the school’s encouragement, Matilda entered the trials for East Northumberland School District this year, where she was selected for the team.

Matilda Coombs is looking forward to honing her talents at Sunderland's Academy of Light.

However, she also caught the attention of talent scouts for Sunderland AFC Academy of Light, which is based in the club’s home city in South Tyneside.

Among the past graduates from the academy are World Cup and European Championships heroes Joran Henderson, who plays midfielder for Liverpool, and Jordan Pickford, goalkeeper for Everton.

Matilda said: “I am quite happy, but also a bit anxious. As I’ll be playing at a higher level. I’m looking forward to learning more skills though, and will be playing two times a week for two hours.”

Mr Moran said: “Tilly has always been a really talented footballer, and has been playing in school since she was in Year 2.

“She has played with boys’ and girls' teams inside and outside of school.”

Matilda’s mother, Suzanne Coombs, added: “She started playing at Bedlington Football Club and at school when she was six, and the coaches could see even at that early age that she had potential and raw talent that needed to be nurtured.

"She tried other things, like gymnastics and dance and swimming, but they weren’t up her street. Football is what she enjoys, and this is the next natural step for her.

"Her coaches have been fantastic, and Mr Moran has always been in the background, encouraging and supporting her.”

Matilda’s move to the academy follows her friend and fellow student Lily Williamson’s (who is a year above her, in Year 6), signage to Sunderland last year.

In addition, Lily has just been offered a new one-year deal with the club.

To find out more about Sunderland AFC Academy of Light, go online at