INSTITUTE teenager Nathan Gartside is the latest lad to get an international call-up.
The 14-year-old keeper was part of Desi Curry’s Northern Ireland Victory Shield squad, which drew with Wales at Ballymena Showgrounds, on Friday night and he’s already looking to the future and pushing for the number one spot in next year’s squad.
“I was very delighted to be called up and at the minute everything is going according to plan, but I want to keep moving forward,” stated Gartside.
“I’m getting some good experience training with the ’Stute first team and the there is very good coaching at ’Stute.
“Hopefully in a few years time I’ll get my chance to start in nets for the first team.
“I’m going to be trying my best to get into the first team not just at ’Stute, but also the Victory Shield Northern Ireland squad.
Gartside, who impressively plays for both the fourth and fifth years at Lisneal College, really is a ’Stute man through and through not only is he a supporter, but he also helps out at the Mini Soccer training on a Friday night.
As for Institute First team coach Brian Donaghy he concedes the youngster has all the attributes to become a top notch keeper.
“His development this year has been astounding,” admitted the County Derry Excellence coach.
“The first night he came into training with the first team, he was a wee bit overawed, because he was actually playing with the lads who he admires and supported a kid, in fairness he’s still a kid now at just 14.
“But the older lads like Paddy McLaughlin and Parky (Stephen Parkhouse) made him feel really, really welcome and the biggest poser that they had was when I asked them what age Nathan was, their guesses ranged from 17-18, so when I told them he was 14 and they couldn’t score past him, they were shocked.
“To be fair all the players in the first team squad have a lot of respect for him, even at a young age, so that’s massive thing from experienced professionals.”
Donaghy jokes that the Maydown youngster is the best keeper at the Drumahoe club, but he knows Gartside still has a lot to learn.
“If he was two years older, he probably would have played in the first team by now, he has the full package,” added Donaghy.
“It hard to judge someone at 14-years-old, but it’s crazy that his stature alone he could keep goal in the Irish League Championship for us.
“He hasn’t looked out of place in training and the lads joke that he’s the best keeper at the club, but he’s a long way from that. He’s learning from Corey Wilson and Marty Gallagher, who are technically very good and Corey has got a lot of good strengths, so he looks up to those lads.
“There is one thing about Nathan is that he’s very, very grounded, which in this day in age is excellent and full credit goes to his coaches at Institute the likes of Ian Harper and so on, I think at a County level we have been able to help him in his progress as well and his parents have been great.
“Getting the call up will do his confidence the world of good, even though he was on the bench and to be fair he is already keeping one eye on next year, so barring injuries if it means Institute have a first choice keeper in Nathan for the next 10 years, then it can only be good for the club.”
Donaghy knows that even though Gartside didn’t get any minutes during Friday night’s Victory Shield game, the whole experience will do him the world of good.
“He is at our County Programme and he has been since 11, so this is his last year with the County programme.
“I was lucky enough last year to take the Development squad over to Manchester City and he was first choice keeper there, so this call up for the Victory Shield squad is a year up from that, because it’s really a U16 squad.
“But he was in good company as there was also eight other County Derry lads in the squad and I know they looked after him, so to speak.
“Next year is a big year for him, where I feel he should be challenging for either the number one or two spot in that squad.”