Stephenson joins Hartlepool
Sunderland Scholars goalkeeper Elliott Stephenson has signed a two-year scholarship with Vanarama National League side Hartlepool United.
The 17-year-old stopper was part of the squad which won the NFYL U19 Midlands/North League and NFYL Trophy double last season, making 17 appearances for the young Black Cats.
Elliott will join up with the Pools youth team for pre-season after training with Sunderland AFC's Under 18 Academy during the 2016-17 campaign.
He said: "I would like to thank Martin, Jamie and Steve for their input and fantastic support over the past year on the Foundation's Scholarship programme.
I was privileged to be part of a team who achieved great things in the first season and without the guidance of great coaches and mentors we would not have succeeded in winning the league and a national cup final at the Stadium of Light.
"When I joined the programme I was immature and unfocused, but with their guidance and motivation I have achieved a scholarship with Hartlepool United."
The Foundation's Football Scholarship gives young players aged 16-18 the opportunity to represent Sunderland AFC in national competition against teams such as Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace while studying towards A Level and BTEC qualifications.
Elliott added: "I would recommend the course to any young aspiring footballer wanting to play professional as without it I would not have achieved what I have.
"The quality training and game time gave me the experience I needed to accomplish my goals and pursue my dream.
"I have greatly improved as a player as well as a rounded individual and learned the importance of being organised, focused and motivated.
"I have also been able to progress as part of a team and make lifelong friends along the way."
Football Scholarship Manager Jamie Chandler, who coached Elliott last season, said: "We are all delighted for Elliott and proud of his achievements.
"He worked extremely hard last season, putting in some fantastic performances, and fully deserves this opportunity.
"There is also the educational aspect with many of our scholars looking to attend university to study sports coaching, sports science or journalism.
"We wish Elliott all the best during his time at Hartlepool."