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Teenage Maidstone United footballer Josh Woolley hoping to follow in footsteps of England and Man United star Chris Smalling

By Craig Tucker

Striker Josh Woolley wants to follow in Chris Smalling’s footsteps by becoming a professional footballer after making his debut for England Schoolboys.

England Schoolboys footballer Josh Woolley Picture: Martin Apps
England Schoolboys footballer Josh Woolley Picture: Martin Apps

Woolley, 17, appeared as a second-half substitute when England beat Wales 2-1 in their Centenary Shield opener at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham earlier this month.

The Maplesden Noakes pupil is hoping to be involved again on Friday night when England face the Republic of Ireland at Ashton Gate, the 21,500 capacity home of Bristol City.

Smalling, then at Maidstone, caught Fulham’s eye while playing for England Schoolboys before earning a move to Manchester United.

And Woolley, who has featured for Stones at youth level, said: “I’d love to be a professional footballer. It’s my aim in life and I’ve got a good chance.

“John Coles, one of the Kent Schoolboys managers, said how dedicated Chris Smalling was to sport and that’s exactly how I am. I just want to play all the time.

“There were a lot of scouts at the England game and I saw a few there from Premier League clubs.

“I knew I needed to perform because it could be my only opportunity to put myself in the shop window.”

Woolley believes daily training with the Soccer Elite academy, based at Maplesden Noakes, has taken his game to a new level.

He went through three stages of trials at Lilleshall before finding out he had made the England squad – although mum Jackie beat him to the news.

Woolley, who is also a talented golfer, said: “I was speechless when I found out I’d made the squad.

“They send out letters but by the time I got home, mum had already opened it! She couldn’t wait but she didn’t tell me what it said.

“Just walking out on the pitch before the Wales game was a totally new experience.

“I came on as a sub for the second half, when we were already 2-1 up and I felt I played well. I worked hard and had a shot that went past the post.”

The day after making his England debut, Woolley helped Kent win the Inter-County Trophy outright for the first time in their history.

Woolley said: “I wasn’t even in the Kent team before Soccer Elite but training five days a week has changed the way I play.”

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