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Last but not least in our student progression update series, we spoke to former Warrington Town Academy student Joe Ruane. After completing two years with the NPLFA where his side won both the league and the NPLFA Cup during his playing time, Joe progressed onto a scholarship in America at St Louis University Community College where he has spent two years studying and playing for the college. He will be transferring in the summer to finish his studies and continue playing for an American College.

Q) Describe your time at the NPLFA, what was it like? Who did you play for? What year did you start?

A) I started in 2016 when I left School and Joined Warrington Town. I had two very fun and successful years, we had really good coaches and I started out playing right back. I really enjoyed it and they were a great bunch of lads, I’d never met any of them before so it was nice to meet new people.

Q) How did you find the mix of football and education, was it a good balance?

A) I think the balance was perfect to be honest, some days we would play football in the morning and have classes after and sometimes it could switch. We trained for about two hours a day and then had our lessons after so it was a good split of the two. The education was all relevant and based around sport and the body so if you wanted to go into a sports science degree or something like that then the classes are definitely helpful.

Q) What was your favourite part about being able to carry on studying while progressing in your football as well?

A) I wanted to stay in education for longer, it’s something that I’ve always thought if I do that it could better my chances of finding that good job after. Carrying on with football with my education has helped as well and I’m glad I’m still doing it.

Q) What were some of the highlights of your time at the NPLFA?

A) Definitely in first year beating Matlock in the Grand Final, it was a brilliant game that we won 3-2 and the second goal we scored, the equaliser, ended up going viral, it was a brilliant team goal and to top it off the year after we won the league as well.

Q) What was it about the NPLFA that made you want to join?

A) It was just different, it’s different to any other college experience, the fact that you can play football every day and can work on getting better is a unique experience which I relished.

Q) What did you think to the set up and structure of the program, FA sanctioned leagues, league cups, match highlights, Team of the Week etc?

A) I was really impressed with it and I think it’s only getting better as well. When I first joined the NPLFA, the whole media side of it with the pictures and the fun games they do that was just starting out and now I follow them now on social media and it is getting better every year.

Q) How did the NPLFA prepare you for life after completing you BTEC level 3? Were there different options outlined for you or did they provide different pathways to higher education etc?

A) Well I wouldn’t be in America without the NPLFA so I’ve got a lot to thank them for. They introduced me into Soccer Chance Academy, that’s what got me over here and I’m very thankful. I started applying for it and then before I knew it I was getting asked to go down to London for trials and I had to spend the night down there, and luckily got accepted.

Q) What was the transition like from finishing at the NPLFA to going onto your degree?

A) It’s been good so far, it was hard at first saying bye to everyone, but I think obviously it would have been a big regret if I didn’t do it because so far it’s been one of the best two years ever really, I’ve not stopped enjoying it so the transition was hard at first but it was definitely worth it.

Q) How did the NPLFA prepare you for going onto college in America?

A) It got me into a good routine I think, doing similar things to at college most days like training and studying and also little traits like working hard and trying to get the best balance of football and your studies so it wasn’t too alien like for me when I arrived in America.

Q) Could you just describe your time so far playing for your college and some of the experiences you’ve had so far?

A) So I play for St Louis Community College in Missouri which is pretty central. During the first season I was a centre back, we went to nationals in Florida and got top 12 in the country and finished eighth so it was a really good year for the college. I played 21 out of 25 games so I was happy with that. The next year I was made captain and moved into central midfield. It was still a good season but we didn’t make nationals this year and it was kind of heart breaking, we lost the last game, it was still a good year though and I scored a few goals, got a few assists. The coaching staff were great as well, everyone at the school was really helpful and now I’m thinking of transferring in about a month’s time. Where I’m at currently is a junior college so you can only do two years here out of your four so I’ll be transferring in the summer, hopefully to Columbia College, it’s still in Missouri but it’s an NAIA school and it’s in a really good location.

Q) What was the best thing about studying with the NPLFA?

A) The best thing about studying and playing is being able to work towards your degree while having some fun and enjoying football at the same time.

Q) What are your aspirations for when you finish the degree?

A) First of all I’d like to carry on playing football for as long as possible and to the highest level and I would like to go into coaching as well and see where that could take me. My main interest and main passion is football so I want to stay involved with it for as long as I can.

This is just one of the many pathways that a student finishing their education with the ESPFA can take. Read the other player progression updates to find out more about pathways to Universities in England and also our own Degree programme in partnership with Loughborough University.

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