Bertie wins surprise call-up for England Under-20 team

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DONCASTER Athletic Club’s Bertie Houghton knows he will need to set his sights high on his international debut.

The teenage middle-distance runner has been picked to represent England Under-20s fell running team in this weekend’s Home International at Keswick.

“I was surprised to hear of Bertie’s selection because I didn’t know that he had done any fell running,” said club coach Barry Barnes.

“But he told me that he had run the odd fell race and he’s obviously caught the eye of the selectors.

“He’s a good cross country runner, as well as being a good track runner, and I’m sure he’ll give a good account of himself in the 6.5k race.”

Houghton’s selection has given him a boost after a disappointing English Schools’ Championships at Gateshead in July.

The 17-year-old had hoped to be challenging for a medal but failed to make the final after running badly in the heats.

After being forced to turn away a number of youngsters - inspired by the recent Olympic Games - wanting to take up the sport, the club have decided to run an Olympic Startrack course on Saturday mornings between 10-12 noon starting this weekend.

“We had such an influx of youngsters coming down to the track after the Olympics that we weren’t able to accommodate them all on the Tuesday and Thursday club nights,” said Barry.

“We were sorry to have to turn them away because obviously we want to encourage as many youngsters as possible to take up the sport.

“So we have decided to put on a Saturday course for the next four weeks for those people we turned away, and any others who want to come along, for them to give the sport a try and to see what events they are interested in.”

Being a product of the successful Doncaster Toll Bar junior programme himself, Sheffield Eagles and former Dons star Peter Green has always been prepared to put something back into grassroots rugby during his professional career.

Green and his dad Ray - who has held virtually every job at the club during his long association with the Dons - have recently formed an under-eights team at Toll Bar, who currently run fewer junior teams than in the past.

Both Peter and Ray - a stalwart member of the Bentley team in his younger days - know how tough the sport can be and now so does Peter’s young son Jack.

“He suffered a broken collar-bone and a shoulder dislocation in a training session but is now back in training,” said Ray.

“We’ve got a squad of 10 lads, who train every Thursday between 6.30pm and 7.15pm, and they are now ready to start playing games,” said Ray.

“As is the case in other sports, lads are not allowed to play competitive games at their age and we’ll be looking to fix up our own games as well as the Yorkshire Junior League fixing us up with some suitable opposition.

“The lads tackle each other but they play on a smaller pitch and both sides get a full six tackles at a time irrespective of how many times they drop the ball.

“What is stopping us at the moment is that both the Eagles and the Dons are still involved in their respective play-off campaigns which means we cannot organise games on a Sunday. Although we’ve got 10 lads training, at this level if you turn up for a match with, for example, only five players, the other side has got to field the same number. Not all the lads training will go on to play rugby league in the future but I would say that all least five will.

“Even at this age you can spot a lad’s potential.

“Toll Bar have produced a number of players who have gone on to play for the Dons including Peter and his brother Wayne, Craig Lawton and Dean Colton, so it is important that they continue to run junior teams.”