Withers becomes a
(Article courtesy of Soccer 2)
Withers, who turns 18 on October 22, went to England two weeks ago as part of tour with a number of other New Zealand teenagers hoping to catch the eye of football scouts in the UK.
The Bay Olympic striker did exactly that by scoring in a trial against Northampton's academy side and just a week later he has joined the youth set-up at the club whose senior men's first team play in the English League One competition.
Withers will play for the Northampton U-18 academy side initially as he links up with other scholarship players all trying to make the move towards first team football.
Mark's father Steve, an Auckland Football representative coach, says his son has worked hard to get where he is but there is plenty more to do.
'He [Mark] wants to be a professional at the highest level he can so he's just got to keep grafting away doing what he does and if he keeps scoring goals then someone will notice him,' Steve Withers said on Wednesday.
There will be some new experiences for the Green Bay teenager as Withers will be staying in a hostel with four other apprentice players, all of whom are from Cyprus.
School work is also part of the deal while he'll also have to clean the boots of the senior players and work at Northampton's home ground of Sixfields Stadium on match days.
Withers rose through the ranks of local football as he represented Auckland Football in the U-15 side in 2005 before going on to equal the single season Mt Albert Grammar School goal scoring record of 49 ' held jointly with Rory Fallon.
He was also equal top goal scorer with New Zealand age-group representative Chris Wood ' now in the youth system at English Premier League club West Bromwich Albion ' at both the 2007 national Secondary Schools and national U-19 club tournaments.
The youngster broke into the Bay Olympic first team in the Lotto NRFL Premier League this year and scored three goals including the winner in a 2-1 victory over Metro FC in July.
Mark and Steve aren't the only football-mad people in the Withers' household either with mum Julie a club official with Bay Olympic and younger sister Rebekah an Auckland Football U-12 representative in 2006 and 2007.
Photo by Shane Wenzlick