Nathan Copeland is a goalkeeper for Portadown under 20’s and Northern Ireland under 16’s, as well as studying brickwork at South West College. Way out West caught up with him to hear about some of his experiences.
Life in Football
‘I currently play for Portadown under 20’s and Northern Ireland under 16’s. I first started at Lisbillaw under 9’s, and the Enniskillen Rangers, before I moved on to Ballinamallard United. It was while I was there that I went to club NI, and I eventually ended up back at Portadown. Football has been a huge part of my life for longer than I can remember, I’m a huge fan of the game and love playing.’
The Irish Football Association describes Club NI as an IFA Elite Programme aiming to prepare young players for the professional game and ultimately representing Northern Ireland at Senior International level. Club NI has been a major part of Nathan’s career so far, so what has his experience been like?
‘Club NI has been brilliant for me because I’ve always wanted to impress, to progress in football and getting something out of it. With Club NI you start off playing against English and Scottish clubs, and then when it gets to under sixteen level you start playing international friendlies and eventually international tournaments. I was recently on a trip away to Turkey, where we were attempting to qualify for the elite stages of the European championships. We did very well, we played against the likes of Estonia and Finland and managed to qualify. When it comes to the elite stages, it will be the biggest stage I’ve ever played on.’
With the footing that Club NI has given him in the sport, Nathan has high ambitions for the future.
‘I hope in the near future to be able to get a few trials over in England and to go over there and impress. Football is my career ambition, it’s always in my mind and I put a lot of focus into it. There’s a few other lads my age and from around my area with similar ambitions, and we put a lot of hard work into the game.’
‘My studies at South West College are important to alongside my ambitions in football. I know there are certain things, subjects like Maths and English, that I have to get in case things don’t work out in football. Studying brickwork here is something I can be hands on and passionate with, which is great, because I know that I need that backup plan. And also, in the meantime, it gives me more time to concentrate on football, which is always at the forefront of my mind at this stage. I know I can be here during the day, and then I have nothing to take home with me, unlike with school, and so my evenings can be dedicated to football.’
Tutors helping keep my eye on the ball
One of the major benefits many students find with South West College is the way they can fit their studies into thee existing lives and commitments. Nathan is no different.
‘I’ve really benefited from having a good relationship with the tutors around me. There’s an element of freedom that you don’t necessarily get a school where they understand that my routine is often built around football. I know that when I’m in college I have work here to concentrate on, and the tutors are supportive and encouraging. They understand like me that as long as I’m successful in getting my qualifications I can still put everything into my football.’