Republic of Ireland international James McClean made a surprise visit to watch the Derry City U15 panel play Stoke City U15 during their end of season tour, to England.
The Creggan man visited the Candy Stripes dressing room before the game and handed out nine pairs of boots to the players and stayed on to support the boys.
Derry U15 coach Conor Loughrey, who has been friends with McClean for years, admitted his young squad’s highlight of the trip was meeting the ex-Derry City winger.
“We decided to travel to the North West for our end of the season trip and we played Burnley, Wigan, Stoke and Oldham, but I have to say the boys highlight was meeting James,” he stated.
“James played a big part in us playing Stoke. The minute I contacted him to try and organise a game against their academy, he was on it quick as a flash contacting their Academy director and everything was organised very quickly.
“The minute we arrived at Clayton Wood, which is Stoke’s training complex, we were treated superbly and the club couldn’t do enough for us.
“Then before kick-off James came into our dressing room with a big bag and threw it into the middle of the floor and asked ‘if any players wore size 8?’, as there was nine pairs of boots there, so all the boys scrambled about to get them and he made sure all the boys got a pair of boots.
“Look he was brilliant with them, he even came over to our side of the pitch and stood with the Derry City coaches and substitues and he asked me was it OK to speak to our young winger Mark Toland, which of course I said 'yeah go ahead’, then early in the second half he had a wee chat with Luca Doherty and within five minutes Luca had scored.”
As for the whole trip Loughrey felt the experience was really worthwhile.
“We have quite a few tired boys now as we have played four games in the space of a few days, but they have all really enjoyed it,” he added.
“It was good for our guys to test themselves against academy sides, but the highlight has to be Clayton Wood at Stoke City.
“There training complex is superb. Their first team and academy teams all train at Clayton Wood and it really is top notch.
“From the minute we arrived in our base in Liverpool to our final game everything has been superb and the boys will have learned so much from the whole experience.”