HARTLEPOOL UNITED have snapped up strapping 17-year-old striker Alfie Steel on a two-year apprenticeship deal.

Steel was spotted playing for Middlesbrough-based T6 Football Academy in the National Football Youth League North-East Premier Division, where he was last season’s top scorer with 17 goals.

Pools’ head of recruitment, Jonathan Constantine, scouted Steel and, after a successful trial, academy manager Andy Lowe offered the teenager a two-year apprenticeship.

T6 manager Dave McTiernan predicts a bright future for the 6ft 3ins centre-forward, who he says has all the attributes needed to carve out a career in the game.

"Alfie's had a fantastic year and a lot of credit goes to our strength and conditioning team for implementing diets and a conditioning programme to help him fulfil his potential and we had a lot of interest in him," said McTiernan.

Steel attended All Saints Catholic Primary in Thirsk and then All Saints Catholic School in York before joining T6 Football Academy as one of its first cohort of players.

McTiernan added: "His dedication in getting picked up at seven o'clock every morning and travelling all the way here has really paid off. He’s got the right attitude and the right family and he’s determined.

"He's done really well, but I imagine there’ll be one or two others moving into the professional game this season."

T6 offers elite-level male and female footballers – including those who have just missed out on joining professional clubs – the chance to combine football training and academic studies.

Hartlepool United’s lead professional phase coach, Ian McGuckin, said: "Thanks have to go out to T6 Academy for facilitating Alfie’s trial period and helping with the smooth transition across to our programme.

"His attitude and application was excellent, which is always a good starting point. We also like his positivity and desire to score goals. He can finish using various techniques, something we look forward to enhancing even further over the duration of the programme."


T6 Football Academy, which is a partnership between Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust and Middlesbrough Football Club, enjoyed a hugely successful debut campaign last year.

Even though all their players were first years and their opponents included older players, they still finished fourth in the league, ahead of teams representing Liverpool and Everton.

The girls’ team finished sixth out of 12 teams, a considerable achievement considering they could rarely field a full team due to long-term injuries.

"The boys were in an Under-19s league and the girls’ division is Under-21s, so it’s been a big learning curve, but the players and staff coped really well,” said McTiernan.

"We’re very happy with our first year, and Alfie moving on has only enhanced the reputation of T6."

Another 73 recruits will join T6 Football Academy from September - 50 boys and 23 girls from across Teesside and North Yorkshire - making up four boys’ squads and one girls’ squad.

McTiernan says the blossoming partnership between T6 and Middlesbrough Football Club has increased interest in the programme.

"Boro have played a big part because we’ve had use of their facilities and the branding is really strong," he said. "We can’t thank Boro’s academy director Craig Liddle enough for the support they have given. They’re seeing we're doing everything right and giving our players the best possible chance.

"Our facilities are second to none and Middlesbrough are playing their Under-18 games over the summer here, which is great. Craig thought this was the best place to play their games against Hull City and Leyton Orient over two weekends.

"But it’s mainly just word of mouth. We have upgraded our facilities again and the message is out there that the coaching staff are doing a really good job.

"The word’s out in the non-league scene locally and all the managers want to be the first to get hold of them.

"We’ve had interest in lots of our players and some have now linked up with semi-professional teams, and all that experience is invaluable.

"We recently had a call from Dundee United because they're interested in looking at one of our players, so we're going to play them in Dundee."

McTiernan believes this is only the start for T6, with the experience they have gained helping them go from strength to strength.

"The college is right behind us and staff, students and parents all come out to support us on Wednesdays.

"A 200-seater stand is being built, but we aren't stopping there. We're looking to improve our facilities further to ensure we're ticking all the boxes. We've also improved the educational side, offering more courses.

"With our girls’ squad now up to strength, I expect an even more successful year in terms of results."

The new players are due to play in a tournament in Belfast this month and plans are under way to take part in next year’s Dallas Cup in America, which was won by Real Madrid this year.