Clitheroe pupil Niall a Real star in the making

Niall Mason
Niall Mason

MOORLAND School’s shooting star Niall Mason has revealed how a meeting with David Beckham at Real Madrid helped spark his football dream.

Niall, 14, a pupil at the Clitheroe school, plays for Blackburn Rovers’ Junior Academy, but enjoyed three years with Real Madrid’s famous soccer school – where he met the former England captain at the Bernabeu Stadium.

“I was the only English lad at the Real Madrid Academy, so David Beckham would often stop and have a chat and give me some encouragement, which was amazing when you are only eight,” said Niall.

“He was a really nice person, and wished me well, as did Michael Owen and Jonathan Woodgate, who were also there.”

England coach Fabio Capello was in charge at Real Madrid then, and Niall added: “Zinedine Zidane was a huge star at Real, and his two sons played in my junior team.

“The captain was Enzo Zidane, and the goalkeeper was Luca Zidane.

“It was just an amazing experience and something I’ll never forget.

“I never imagined anything like that happening when I went to a soccer camp in Spain, and a Real Madrid scout spotted me.”

Rovers were so impressed with Niall’s talents when he moved to England that they offered him a full contract last year.

Now, under the tutelage of Charlie Jackson, whose coaching methods at Moorland School were the subject of a feature by The Daily Telegraph’s chief football writer Henry Winter, Niall is on track for a bright future.

Niall added: “Even though I was very young, I really felt part of it at Real Madrid.

“They gave us free tickets to watch all the Champions League games and, for a young lad, that was a dream.

“It is a big ambition to become a professional, and that’s why I chose Moorland School when I moved to England.

“They have such a good name for developing players.”

Moorland have forged a reputation for nurturing young talent, with Manchester United striker John Cofie joining Burnley before his switch to Old Trafford in November 2007.