PUBLISHED: 17:36 09 February 2011
2011 is certainly shaping up to be an action-packed year for Wealdstone’s Jonathan Barden – first he’s set to represent England, and then he’s off to crack America.
The Stones youngster and Middlesex under-18s midfielder has been selected for the 18-man England Schoolboys squad which will play in the Centenary Shield in March.
The 18-year-old from Beaufort Avenue in Harrow came through a serious of regional and national trials to make the Three Lions’ team, and will now line up against Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and holders Republic of Ireland, with the latter two games televised live on Sky Sports.
And with that honour tucked under his belt, Barden then crosses the Atlantic in August, where he will begin a four-year sport scholarship which he hopes will win him a place with one of America’s Major League Soccer sides.
First though, comes England, and the opening match of the Centenary Shield against Northern Ireland at Telford on Friday March 4 where Barden and his team-mates will begin their quest to take the crown from the Republic of Ireland.
“It feels really good, it was a really long trial process but at the end of it I had a bit of an idea I might have made the squad – but it was still a relief when the letter dropped through the door,” says Barden.
“It’s a big chance for me, and for England, who I think can win it. I played a bit more defensively during the trial games – I’m more of a playmaker, but I’ll play in any position I’m needed.”
Should England win the Centenary Shield, it would be the perfect send-off for Barden, who five months later will fly to Virginia to begin his scholarship at the James Maddison University.
His goal at the end of that scholarship is to make it through the MLS Draft, an annual selection process through which the top MLS sides sign up the most promising college graduates in the country.
At least one name will be familiar to Barden – John Rooney, younger brother of Manchester United and England star Wayne, was selected by New York Red Bulls during the 2011 Draft in January.
In contrast with the English set-up, where players who fail to make the grade are all too often left without a career alternative, the scholarship system allows those who miss out on selection during the Draft to fall back on other career choices – a big advantage in Barden’s eyes.
“I’ve got my heart set on America, it’s certainly a different option to playing over here because it means I can bring my football and education on at the same time, whereas in England it tends to be one or the other,” he adds. “So I know that if my football doesn’t work out over there I have the option of following a career, for example, in sports science.
“I’m not sure how the quality of the American league compares to over here but I know they spend a lot of time working on fitness, which suits my game because I’m quite a good technical and physical midfielder and I like to get stuck in.”
Barden is keeping his feet on the ground ahead of his American odyssey, and his immediate target is his debut with Wealdstone.
He has already trained with the first team and was an unused substitute during the Stones’ Middlesex County Cup tie with Staines on Monday night, but is hopeful of making his bow before the end of the season.
“Wealdstone have been good to me, and they have a reputation for producing professional players like Vinnie Jones and Stuart Pearce,” says Barden. “Also my under-18s coach Carl Martin has just signed a pro contract with Crewe, he’s a role model for me and someone I really look up to.”
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