Friday, 1 May 2015

Sports Science student chases football dream

When a UCLan SENS student took to the football pitch in Cyprus for his weekly match, little did he know a spectator visiting on an educational trip would soon make his dreams come true.

Football mad Sergios Avraam was playing for UCLan's Cyprus team when he came to the attention of Preston North End Football Club's Deputy Chairman David Taylor, who is also Chairman of UCLan.

David spotted the striker's talents during a trip to our Pyla campus and invited him to train with the League One club.

Sergios, who is studying the first year of a Sports Science degree, has travelled to Lancashire to train at UCLan Sports Arena with the PNE Academy Team (U18s).

He said: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it could be the one chance I need to change my life. To be able to play football professionally is a dream come true, so I hope I impress the coaches. I’m so thankful to David, Preston North End and UCLan for making this happen."

As well as playing for the university, the 22-year-old also stars for Cypriot Second Division team Elpida Xylophagou.

"Playing in England is very different to Cyprus," said Sergios. "The pace is so fast compared with the European style of play. Technically I feel I’ve done okay and I feel I've been strong enough up against other players, but I know my stamina needs to improve. Playing 90 minutes at a fast pace is physically very tough, but with more training I know I'll be able to perform.

"It's been very interesting and challenging so far, but it's definitely been enjoyable. The coaches and players have been very friendly and encouraging so I couldn't have asked for more."

Between his training sessions and daily gym session Sergios, who is away from home for the first time, has been taking in the local sights.

"Preston is a very good city," he said. "I've enjoyed running by the river in the beautiful park, walking around the Docks and spending time in the city in the sunshine. The football stadium is amazing and the training facilities at the Sports Arena are outstanding."

His UCLan coach Miodrag Stijovic met David in Cyprus and pointed Sergios out as the star player. Miodrag, who has travelled over for a week to watch him in training, said: "I'm very, very proud of him. He's a very special player with fantastic ability. All he needs to do is to train hard, improve his physical stamina and seize the chance to show what he can do. David has been a great help and we're all very grateful for everything he has done."

The duo were David’s guests of honour at Preston's recent home match versus Swindon Town. David said: "I'm delighted I had the chance to see Sergios playing while I was visiting our Cyprus Campus. To see him in Preston making the most of this opportunity is great. He's a very talented footballer and I'm delighted I could help. UCLan's Cyprus Campus is one of our best assets and this helps to build further links between us."

While in Preston he has been under the watchful gaze of PNE Academy Manager Nick Harrison. He said: "Credit to Sergios for coming over and joining in so well. He's taken to all the training sessions really well, coped with the physical demands, displayed his technical ability and shown he's a good footballer.

"For me it’s been a positive experience for both parties. He's been able to learn from us while the rest of the players have come up against an older player who has a different style of play to what they're used to. The way he's integrated so well with the group is a bonus."

Being a footballer does not mean Sergios has been able to avoid his academic studies as he has been using UCLan’s interactive educational software to compete his assignments.

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