Tom Chalmers, Jack Bates and Alfie Peacock were all announced as part of the final squad after impressing throughout the selection proceedings.
The first phase of trials commenced in October at a series of colleges including Bishop Burton College, Newcastle-under-Lyme College, Oaklands College and SGS College. Around 400 players were nominated from almost 100 organisations up and down the country.
Tom, Jack and Alfie were among 100 other hopefuls in the second phase of the trials last month, and were subsequently successful having been selected in the final squad of 24 players.
Last year’s AoC Sport England Colleges men’s team captain Tom, spoke about his inclusion in the squad and said, “It’s a bit different for me because I was there last year, so it was a big shock to me then. I spoke to the manager before this year’s trial and he gave me a lot of confidence. I hoped that I’d get in again this year and that I’d done enough to get in the team.
“It’s obviously difficult because you’ve got everyone trying to impress, everyone’s doing different things that they wouldn't normally do. It’s completely different from a normal match. I was captain last year, I’m not sure if I will be this year. It’s weird as no one knows you and you don’t know anyone else, so you’re thrown in the deep end. But you figure it all out quickly.”
The AoC Sport England Colleges men’s football team are set to get their first game underway on December 16th, when they will play at St George Park, the home of England’s national team. He said, “Playing at St Georges Park will be an experience, a lot different to what we’re used to!”
On whether students should look to study Sport at East Sussex College, Tom said, “Do it basically. If you want to play football and study the course, as long as you don’t take the mickey, the College gives you a bit of leeway and allows you to train. Something that might not be the case at other colleges.
“Support from tutors has always been good, they always congratulate us with our football and stuff like that. They allow us to play football whenever we can, and help us by doing whatever they can to get us used to a football environment.”
Whilst football remains a priority for Tom, he also recognises that having a backup plan is important. He said, “I’ve already done a PT course last year and I’m doing another course similar to that. It’s my last year of college, so I’m trying to get the most out of it.”
Tom is currently in his third year of studying Sport at East Sussex College, whereas Alfie and Jack are midway through their second year.
Alfie, who has previously had trials at Gillingham FC, said, “I did the (AoC Sport England) trial last year, but didn’t get in. The manager told me why I didn’t get in and how I could improve. I took the advice, did everything he told me to do, and when I saw my name in the final squad this year I was buzzing. At the trials everyone’s doing their best, you just need to try and stand out.
“We all play at Hastings United. I’m on loan and playing in the men's side at the moment which has helped me play better and gain lots more experience.”
On the topic of studying Sport at East Sussex College Hastings, Alfie said, “There’s a lot more freedom than what you’d get with other courses. It’s not an easy course, but it’s one of the best ones, particularly if you’re looking to balance it with football as well. It’s a good one to do.”
Jack echoed the words of his classmates and teammates, and expressed his pride at being included in the squad. He said, “It felt good to see my name in the final squad. I’m very proud and can't wait to get started at St Georges Park. I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m looking forward to it. I found the qualifying stages alright, there’s obviously a lot of good players, but it was a good experience.
“The course opens up a lot of football opportunities, so especially if you want to do your football it’s definitely the best course to do,” said Jack. “The College and tutors have been good and supportive throughout.”
As quoted on the AoC Sport website, men’s Head Coach Darin Killpartrick said, “The trial phase is always a difficult and subjective process. The standard this year was very balanced and there were hardly any differences in players’ abilities, making the process incredibly difficult and challenging.
“Congratulations to those that made the squad. However, to those that were just short please stay focused on your journey, as it is only a few people’s opinion based on your limited playing time at the trials. Stay positive and keep progressing.”
If you’re interested in following in Tom, Jack and Alfie’s footsteps, find out more about studying Sport at East Sussex College here - https://www.escg.ac.uk/courses/sport-fitness/.