Joe Gelhardt and Jensen Weir win England U16 and Scotland U16 call-ups to continue successful year for Latics’ academy.
- Wigan Athletic youngsters Joe Gelhardt and Jensen Weir win international call-ups.
- Duo to play against each other for England and Scotland at Stirling on Thursday.
- Academy Manager Gregor Rioch: “It’s a proud moment for us”
Wigan Athletic academy duo Joe Gelhardt and Jensen Weir have both been called up to the England and Scotland under-16 squads respectively, ahead of a tournament between the two nations and Uruguay and Qatar this week.
The duo will face off on Thursday at Stirling’s Forthbank Stadium with their respective fixtures against Uruguay and Qatar coming either side of that match on Tuesday and Saturday.
Speaking this week about the call-ups for the pair, Academy Manager Gregor Rioch said:
“I’m immensely proud of everyone that’s involved within the academy at Wigan Athletic. We’re delighted that the two lads have been called up for their countries because it’s something that hasn’t happened too often over the years here, so to have one representing England and the other Scotland is a great moment.
“We’ve had a few Under 19s and 18s represent their countries over the past couple of years, and more and more of the younger lads are starting to get in now too. A couple of the boys have gone away with Wales’ Under 16s and 15s, so it’s really good experience for them all. The academy is developing well but the next stage for us is to try and get more of the boys in the first team.
“Jensen and Joe did really well last season and made it up into our Under 18s while still only being in the Under 15s bracket, so we’re giving them lots of different challenges all the time and this call-up is another challenge for them now.
“They’re all smiles at the moment but I’m sure come Thursday that will all change. It doesn’t matter what level you play at, when it’s England vs Scotland it’s the Auld Enemy and a game to be won. My message to them though would be to be proud to wear the shirt of their country and just enjoy it.
“The new manager has come in and given the young lads an opportunity during pre-season to go and show what they’re capable of, and I think that’s all we can ask for really. It’s down to them to progress further but to see seven of them on the pitch against Liverpool recently was just amazing because it gives the players something to aspire to and know that there’s someone there to give them an opportunity.
Joe Gelhardt, called up by England, added:
“When I heard the news that I was called up for England I was over the moon. It’s just an honour to play for your country and I can’t wait.
“We’re all smiles together in training now but on Thursday when we face each other it’s going to be a completely different story!
“The coaches at Wigan Athletic are great and they keep pushing and developing us. There’s such a great opportunity to progress to the first team at this club as we’re seeing recently with all the Under 18’s being given a chance in the first team.”
And Jensen Weir says he hopes to follow in the footsteps of current academy graduates getting into Paul Cook’s first team at the moment:
“It’s really motivating to see the Under 18s doing so well in the first team and it just makes you want to kick on and try and get in there with them as soon as possible.
“I look up to them and watch how they train all the time and just try to work off that really.