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Josh shows off his skills at Old Trafford; North East youngster in the top three.

Byline: Sam Wood

ASKILLFUL South Tyneside schoolboy has been tipped as a football star of the future after coming third in a worldwide competition.

Josh Rodgers, reached the final of a football skills competition run by Manchester United, which more than 20,000 children entered.

He was presented with a trophy by legendary player Sir Bobby Charlton at half time during the Premier League champions' game against Hull on Saturday.

In the morning the 11-year-old was invited to the club's Cliff training ground, where he took part in a skills test with other finalists from around the world.

From the initial 20,000 entrants from as far afield as Australia, Dubai, India and Ukraine, 37 were chosen to take part on Saturday in the final.

After showing off his skills on the same pitch which stars such as George Best and Eric Cantona have graced in the past, Josh, a Sunderland season ticket holder, then watched the match against Hull at Old Trafford.

At half time he was invited on to the pitch in front of the 75,000 crowd after being told he had finished third overall.

Josh, a Year 7 pupil at St Joseph's RC Comprehensive School, Hebburn, said: "I didn't think I was going to do so well, I thought I had done rubbish in the morning so I was sur- prised to be asked to go on the pitch.

Bobby Charlton is one of my heroes so it was great to meet him. We had a quick chat as well.

"I want to play football for a living for either Manchester United or Sunderland."

Josh, who lives with mum Ashley and dad Rob in Sunnirise, South Shields, got to the final by attending the Manchester United Summer Soccer School.

But he only managed to attend because his grandmother paid the pounds 500 entrance fee.

Proud dad Rob, 54, said: "His mate had gone and Josh wanted to go too but it was a bit expensive. So his grandmother said she would pay. He won the competition held at the summer school to make it through to the finals.

"I was over the moon when I found out he had got to the final stages and then he came third.

"Words just can't describe how proud I felt. My only regret is that I forgot to get him to ask Bobby Charlton to sign my copy of his autobiography. He deserves this suc- cess because he puts the hard work in.

He practices hour after hour after hour and he has been playing since he was four.

"He is keen to become a professional but all lads want that. He needs to carry on with his schooling and keep his feet on the ground for now."

Josh's mum, Ashley said: "We were delighted when he won its absolutely amazing. I'm so proud."

Speaking about the competition, former Manchester United captain, Bryan Robson said: "This was an amazing opportunity for these kids to get the chance to live their dream and play at Old Trafford. They have all worked incredibly hard to get here and thoroughly deserve to appear on one of the greatest stages in world football.

"I hope that this unique opportunity will serve to inspire them, so they can get even more out of the game."

CAPTION(S):

PRIZES Josh Rogers, left, with Sir Bobby Charlton and winner Valentino Pugilese from Switzerland, centre, and Norway's John Hou Saeter who was second.; THIRD PLACE Josh Rodgers of Sunnirise, South Shields.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 5, 2008
Words:584
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