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Beckfoot Thornton pupil gets break with Mansfield Town deal
by Rowan Newman @RowanN_TandA
A PUPIL from a Bradford school has secured an amazing scholarship at a professional football league club.
Beckfoot Thornton's Ben Whelan, 16, has signed a two-year deal with League Two team Mansfield Town.
What makes it even more remarkable is the teenage sensation, from Clayton, has never officially been part of an academy system in the past.
The move stems from a trial at Sheffield United when after failing to make the grade, one of their recruitment team noticed Ben's potential and put his name out there.
Plenty of interest came his way before Ben and his family decided a move down to Nottinghamshire would be best.
It is his resolve to bounce back from rejection which makes him special, according to his dad Mark and PE teacher Rachel Ballantyne.
The latter said: "We are over the moon. He is a super athlete and works really hard.
"He has grown into a young man whose aspirations have always been to play football.
"Ben has resilience to get back up and go again. He is a likeable lad in school and is not arrogant.
"Ben works quietly behind the scenes and has worked really hard to get where he is at now."
The six-foot two centre half will start the programme officially in July, moving down to accommodation next to the training ground.
Ben will combine football with studying for a BTEC in sport and an FA level two coaching qualification.
His dad added: "Ben is very happy. He has been going for this for the last couple of years.
"He has suffered rejections, and it has never stopped him from carrying on.
"For a kid who has never been fully signed in an academy, he has done extremely well. It comes down to talent and hard work.
"He needs to continue putting the hard work in and have bucket loads of luck.
"He will be staying down there (Mansfield) and that is where the journey begins. We lose him which I don’t think we have come to terms with yet!"
Ben follows the likes of Bradford City's Matty Foulds and Bradford Bulls' Steve Crossley as ex-pupils of Beckfoot Thornton to sign on at professional sports clubs.
"We have a real strong department and philosophy that everyone can achieve," Miss Ballantyne added.
"We keep everyone grounded and no one is bigger than the rest.
"We are not precious with them. If they have got an academy game coming up, we do not let them sit out. They are role models to others, proving you cannot just rely on your talent."
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