STOKE CITY'S Academy defender Sam Coulson is celebrating a call-up to England's Under-18s squad . . . as he aims to follow in the footsteps of Club captain Ryan Shawcross one day.
Coulson, who has featured in every Group Two match for City's Under-18s this season, impressed national coach Noel Blake sufficiently to earn a place for Wednesday's friendly against Italy at Mansfield Town's One Call Stadium.
The news comes in the same month that Shawcross was named in Roy Hodgson's 23-man squad for England's 2014 World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland.
Academy manager Dave Wright believes Coulson sees City's skipper as an example of what to aim for, and says the youngster's application on and off the pitch merits his selection.
"Sam's been a credit to himself and the Academy - you could say he's a model scholar," he said.
"I would imagine he sees Ryan as a role model, and it's just so happened that their call-ups have happened at the same time and they play in the same position, which is a nice coincidence.
"The fact that Sam's a first-year scholar, going into a team of mainly second-years, and of course that it's England, makes it extra special.
"What's also pleasing is that Sam's old club, Manchester City, didn't see Sam's potential, but we did. It's a great reward for his and the Academy's hard work."
Coulson's selection comes off the back of a number of the Clubs other youngsters making an impact for their countries in the recent international break.
Wright says that is an indication of how far the Academy has progressed in recent years.
"Sam's one of six players from the Under-18s alone who have been involved in youth international football in recent weeks," he added.
"We had Curtis Strong and Jack Nardiello representing Wales, Ryan O'Reilly was called-up for Ireland, Dale Eve was with Bermuda and Kris Scott went away with the United States.
"We're delighted that these players are getting recognised - it's definitely a measure of how far we've come here."
Wright also highlighted the impact of former Potter Blake, who has helped establish the firm links with the Club's Academy since taking charge of England's youth teams back in 2007.
"Noel's been very influential in terms of liaising with us; he's shown plenty of interest in our progress. Sam should be grateful to him for getting the opportunity."
City's Under-18s have had a mixed campaign so far, winning four and losing four of their eight matches in the new national structure of Academy Premier League.
If you would like to go along and see Sam in action, tickets are available for the game at Mansfield Town for £3 (adults) and £1 (concessions). Tickets can be booked by calling 01623482482.