Sean Stackhouse, right, left SCH for Fleetwood Town Football Club’s International Academy last month.

by Pete Mazzaccaro

Sean Stackhouse has been a standout soccer player for as long as anyone can remember.

The youngest of four sons of Andy and Kate Stackhouse, of Warrington, Sean spent his earliest years looking up to his brothers, who played and excelled in the sport. His older brother, Andy, was a star on the SCH team who graduated in 2017. His other brother, Tom, is the team’s assistant coach.

The Stackhouse boys followed in the footsteps of their father, Andy, who was a star player for Spring Garden College and played for semi pro clubs since he was in high school. His family said he finally retired from playing in his 40s.

“He [Sean] went to all my games,” Andy Sr. said. “We started knocking the ball around when he was a little guy. And he jumped into the game and loved it.”

“I was just watching them play,” Sean said,” I love watching them play. And I was just trying to keep up with them, you know?”

Sean joined his first youth team when he was five and later played for the very competitive Warrington club, Vereinigung Erzgebirge, and the Ukranian Nationals, a club based in Philadelphia.

Last month, at the age of 15, Stackhouse flew to Fleetwood, England, to join the international academy of Fleetwood Town Football Club, a club that as of this writing, is in fourth place in League One, the English Football League’s third division.

He’ll attend Rossall Independent Boarding School in Lancashire, which caters to international athletes, and he’ll train almost every day. The student visa Stackhouse has received to study at Rossall allows him to train at Fleetwood Town’s expansive, 10 million-pound Poolfoot Farm facility. The academy boasts the Leicester City and England star striker, Jamie Vardy.

It’s a big move for Stackhouse, who will be starting his sophomore year as a fledgling soccer player.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking, but I think I’m ready,” he said. “I’m ready to have a new challenge in my life as well as to meet new people and to do what I love every day: play soccer.”

Stackhouse’s opportunity came while playing in a tournament against European academy clubs. A coach for the academy of England’s Bolton Wanderers, James Ward, saw Stackhouse and invited him to train with the Bolton academy.

Bolton suffered severe financial problems over the course of the last year and nearly folded completely in August. Ward left Bolton and took a job at Fleetwood Town. He didn’t forget Stackhouse.

Sean’s favorite player is the now-retired Steven Gerrard, a dynamic midfielder who starred for Liverpool Football Club and the English National Team. He now manages Rangers, one of most prestigious clubs in the Scottish Premier League. Stackhouse admired Gerrard and modeled himself as a defensive minded, holding midfielder – a playmaking, accurate passing player who strives to dictate play from deep.

Stackhouse’s father, Andy, said he recently noticed just how accurate a passer his son is now that he’s not coaching and simply watching hm play. It’s one of the things Fleetwood Town’s Ward said was a factor for his inclusion in the academy, Andy said.

“But one game that I went to recently that I wasn’t coaching, I could just chill and watch him,” Andy said. “And that night, they were playing a team for Connecticut. I counted his passes and he was like 53 for 56 passes!”

Stackhouse’s parents are both excited for him.

“It’s been fun to watch his growth,” Kate said. “But this is going to be difficult for us to separate a little bit. But I think we’re all excited. I think it’s a great opportunity. And you know, it’s going to be tough, but it’s exciting.”

Stackhouse is well aware of the opportunity. Though SCH’s soccer team can boast its own star players – Atlanta United centerback Jeff Larentowicz and retired LA Galaxy defender Dan Gargan both played for the school— the training he’ll receive at Fleetwood Town will be far better and broadly increasing the chances that he’ll be able to play as a professional.

If it doesn’t work out, Stackhouse knows his schooling will keep him ready for college.

“I mean, obviously, I’m hoping for the best,” Stackhouse said. “I would love to have a career in soccer. But if something goes wrong, college is a great option. I definitely want to be a professional soccer player. And I either want to play for Fleetwood Town or at different stages in Europe.”