Former Burnley and Manchester United youngster John Cofie goes back ‘home’ to Moorland School

Former Manchester United and Burnley youngster John Cofie has gone ‘home’ to where it all started after hanging up his boots earlier this year.
John CofieJohn Cofie
John Cofie

The 27-year-old – once the youngest ever million pound signing – has accepted a role as a coach and mentor at Clitheroe’s Moorland School.

And it sees him team up again with Head of Football Development Charlie Jackson – the man who played a key role in launching his football career from the age of 10.

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The Ghanaian-born ex-England youth international was most recently playing in the Philippines, but decided at the start of 2020 it was time to call it a day.

Now he hopes the next generation of budding stars can learn from some of the experiences he had – and the mistakes he made - both on and off the pitch.

Cofie said: “I came back after some time in Australia a few months ago and had a chat with my mum.

“I told her that I didn’t want to play football anymore.

“I did a mentoring course and there was something in my heart telling to come here and have a meeting with Charlie. He was a really important part of my career.

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“So here I am, a few weeks in and it feels great to be back at Moorland – I’m really loving it.

“Hopefully, my story can touch people and help. There are lots of mistakes I have made that I can help others avoid.

“As well as coaching football I’ll be talking to the kids about how to live their lives. I’d like it if people could learn from my experiences.”

Cofie first attended Moorland at the age of 10 and was snapped up by Burnley a couple of years later before quickly attracting interest from Liverpool and Chelsea.

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In November 2007, at the age of 14, he was signed by United for a fee of £1.2 million and spent the next six years on the books at Old Trafford.

During that time, he worked with current Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and was in the same year group as Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison.

He also played for Royal Antwerp, Sheffield United and Notts County along with several non-league clubs, but is now looking to write a new chapter.

Key to getting him back to Moorland was highly-regarded coach Jackson, who has worked at Moorland since 2002.

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In the last nine years, 12 players who have worked under Charlie have gone on to make their debuts in the professional game – including former Moorland pupils Joe Grayson and Stefan Mols.

United and Scotland ace Scott McTominay is another who was set on the road to stardom by Jackson who also runs the Matrix Soccer Academy.

Charlie was working at United while Cofie was there and the pair have remained friends ever since.

He believes his return to Moorland will be a real benefit to the children.

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Jackson said: “Obviously I’ve followed John’s career closely and for me between the ages of 14 and 18 he was better than Paul Pogba.

“He had more to his game.

“He was one of the most naturally technical and athletically gifted players that I have ever worked with.

“The work ethic was always there – I’m just not sure his managers really got him and he also had a difficult time with injuries.

“There’s a lot he can tell the kids, passing on his knowledge from what he went through - and I’m convinced he can make a difference for them.

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“I really think it’s huge to have him board here at Moorland.

“Watching him grow has been inspirational.

“I am learning from him as well but he can give these kids a chance.

“He just wants to give something back. “

Cofie has been keen to embrace other aspects of school life too – helping out in the junior maths lessons several times.

Teacher Paul Atkinson said: “John had a lovely supportive manner and you could see the kids were hanging on his every word. He was a natural.”

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Yet sport is a big part of Moorland and under Jackson’s guidance, they have excelled on the pitch in recent times – winning the national title four times and five Lancashire Cups in the last six years.

The school believes it provides a unique education option for young football talent with clear pathways to professional CAT1 level academies.

With their on site boarding, Moorland provides a haven for students from all over the world as well as a high level of academic education.

Charlie and his fellow staff are sure the return of Cofie strengthens what the Moorland Football Academy has to offer.