Cheltenham Town are extremely proud to announce that first year scholar Tom King has been called up to the England U18s squad for their upcoming World Cup Warm-Up tournament in Marbella.
The 17-year-old will travel to Spain this weekend before a trio of matches throughout the following 10 days, against Belgium, Morocco and Korea Republic.
Kingy became the club's youngest ever EFL appearance maker in the opening day defeat to Shrewsbury Town at the age of just 16 years and 319 days.
Fast forward just two months and he now becomes the first player in the club's history to be called up to an England squad at any age group.
The club have previously had players called up to schoolboy squads through the English Schools Football Association but no Robins player has ever received an England cap from the FA itself.
Tom's achievement is a massive one for him, his family, the club and everyone involved in the academy set-up at Cheltenham Town.
A lot of hard work has gone into and been carried out within the academy over the last decade and Tom's call-up both emphasises that work as well as Tom's ability on the field.
The exciting forward made his debut for the Under 18s while still a 15-year old as a substitute in a 3-2 Football League Youth Alliance Cup win over Bristol Rovers and scored his first goal for the club in the next match against Exeter City.
He went on to score six times in 20 starts and four substitute appearances for the Under-18s last season but it was the maturity of his play that caught the eye.
He has carried that into the new season after earning a scholarship, having already netted three times in five games for the young Robins this term.
Tom spoke with the CTFC media team not long after finding out he had been selected to represent his country for the very first time.
"It's an amazing feeling to be recognized," began King.
"Being at a Category Three Academy, you don't usually get recognized by that sort of standard. It's such an amazing feeling to able to represent my country."
The squad is made up in it's entirety of the countries best young players, something Kingy is looking forward to being a part of.
"It'll be a real experience to play with some really good players from across the world," he added.
"Hopefully it will play a part in helping me become an even better player but also give me a better understanding of the different levels there are to the game.
"Then I will come back and keep working hard."
The achivement is one of immense pride for King and his family, which Tom's Dad Chris spoke to us about.
"It's difficult to put into words how proud we are of Tom," began Chris.
"To be honest the news of his England selection hasn’t really sunk in fully yet. We’ve always believed in Tom’s potential to perform at a top level, but had never anticipated he’d be representing England after only 18 months of playing academy football.
"Tom is an incredibly hard worker, always going the extra mile, whilst putting real attention to detail on his technical skills. Most importantly he’s always trusted in his coaches, listening, and applying all elements of training and advice to his game.
"To top it off, he gets to train and play with a great group of lads every day, which really makes the experience enjoyable for him; and at 17 that’s a really important dynamic.
"This is a success story for the whole academy, and for that we are really grateful."
Academey Manager Tim Bell played a big part in getting Tom to the club and with his recent development. Reflecting on the brilliant news, he said:
"Firstly, well done to Tom! There is no greater honour than being recognised by your country and we wish him all the best on the 10-day camp. All the staff will be watching every moment and cheering him on.
"This is an honour for everyone associated with developing players here at Cheltenham Town. It is clear to me that it takes a ‘town’ to raise young people and not one person in Tom’s life, at Cheltenham or his previous clubs, should underestimate the role they have played in Tom’s development."
Bell gave more of an insight into the Robins youngster, highlighting his true qualities that have ultimately earned him this amazing accolade.
"His consistent high level performances and his off-the-grass self determination to be the best version of himself are his foundations that have afforded him this incredible opportunity with England," continued Bell.
"I think if you ask any young person who plays football, their ‘northern star’ is to play at the highest possible level their mentality, physicality and technical ability will allow. Tom is a centre forward that offers something unique and will keep the people on the edge of their seats whenever he plays."
As previously mentioned by King, the feat of a category three player earning an England call-up is quite rare, and something that Bell believes highlights the impressive work done by academies across the country.
"It’s great to see young players from across the Academy categorisations recognised at International level," he added.
"I believe it is an acknowledgement and testament to the great work going on at Category Three Academies. I am proud of our club’s development culture and approach to nurturing young talent.
"Tom’s selection will provide the staff an opportunity to reflect on the progress that has been made in recent times but also where we want to continue to improve so that we can hopefully enjoy more of these incredible moments."
Lead Professional Development Phase Coach Dave Palmer is another figure who has overseen Tom's progression and he added:
"Everyone at the club is so proud of Tom’s achievement in being selected for the England U18s training camp."
"It’s a real honour for any player to get the opportunity to represent their country and it is a real testament to the continued hard work that Tom puts in to develop himself.
"Tom is an excellent young player with a real super strength to his game, he travels with the ball, dominates 1v1 moments with pace and trickery and can finish with both feet.
"He’s a real grounded character and has taken everything in his stride so far; making his 18s debut as a 15 year old, playing for the first team at 16 and becoming the club’s youngest ever EFL player on the way to this international camp selection."
Palmer reflected on the hard yards that have been put in over recent times and the rewards that both the coaching and playing staff alike are now beginning to see.
"It will be a great learning experience for Tom and I’m sure he will relish the opportunity to challenge himself up against some of the world's top young talent. We’ll be watching the games against Belgium, Morocco and South Korea from afar and wishing Tom all the best.
"As an academy, it’s a great time to take a moment to reflect on the excellent work that has gone on over the last six or seven years to develop a programme that enables young players like Tom to flourish, all whilst looking to the future and how we can continue to help young people achieve their dreams."
We would like to place on record a massive congratulations to Tom on behalf of everyone involved at the football club and wish him the very best of luck during his time away in Spain.