Former Hartlepool Sixth Form student Matthew Ridley has signed his first professional contract with English Football League club Sutton United.
The young defender excelled in his studies and on the pitch during his two years at sixth form which saw him secure a prestigious scholarship in the USA.
After graduating from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Matthew had spells with Whitby Town and Consett AFC in the Northern Premier League when he returned to the North East. Following some impressive displays in pre-season for Sutton United, he committed his future to the League Two side.
Looking back, he admits it was being able to study Business while playing football which made the sixth form stand out when choosing his next steps after school.
He said: “I chose Hartlepool Sixth Form because of the Football Academy as well as it being in my hometown. I knew that it would give me the qualifications to go to the USA on a football scholarship and I would also have the backing of the Football Academy to continue advancing in my sport.
“Being able to combine football with my studies brought a range of opportunities my way, including representing my country.”
While at sixth form Matthew excelled on his dual career pathway, captaining the Football Academy and England Colleges teams, competing against some of the best young footballers from across Europe.
Aspiring to be a professional footballer and become a successful entrepreneur, he studied Business Studies and Sport, achieving three Distinction* grades which earned him a place in the States and has praised Hartlepool Sixth Form for giving him the opportunity to achieve his ambitions.
He added: “Studying at Hartlepool Sixth Form allowed me to go to America on a scholarship where I was able to get a degree. The teachers were there for you and wanted you to succeed.
“The subjects I studied prepared me well for university, I already had a broadened knowledge than most students in my class. In a way, it made my first year of university significantly easier.
“I would definitely recommend the sixth form because it’s a comfortable transition from school and gives you the foundation for advancing your career.”
Hartlepool Sixth Form’s Football Academy produces elite players who progress into professional and semi-professional football or gain international scholarships.
All players receive training from expert coaches, strength and conditioning training, sports science and physiotherapy support, detailed performance analysis with PlayerTek and Veo technology, combined with competitive games in high profile leagues and tournaments.
Dan Finney, Sports Academies and Partnerships Manager, added: “It’s great to see Matthew signing a contract in the professional game. He is the perfect example of how our Dual Career pathway supports students study a range of subjects alongside an elite sports programme and progress in their chosen careers.
“Everyone from Hartlepool Sixth Form wishes Matthew all the best at Sutton United and look forward to seeing him in action.”
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