Midfielder steps into spotlight in latest youth profile.
Budding star Andrew Cartwright has been a regular face in midfield in the club’s under-18 side this season.
Andrew comes from rich footballing stock as father Peter played as a professional, representing the likes of Newcastle, Scunthorpe and Darlington.
Cartwright was spotted playing for Wallsend Boys’ Club and joined Sunderland’s Academy as an under-15.
Fast forward and the midfielder is a regular at youth level under the watchful eye of Elliott Dickman and Craig Liddle, but initially the youngster could hardly believe that scouts were watching him.
It’s probably been my best year of football, although I still think I can play better.
- Andrew Cartwright
“I started out with [local team] Red House Farm, with all my mates, and we were really only messing about,” he explained.
“But towards the end of playing seven-a-side I felt I had to start taking my football more seriously and I went to Wallsend.
“I didn’t really believe it the first time I heard that scouts were watching me.
“But the first time one spoke to me I thought ‘it’s getting real now’ and I knew I had to work hard.”
Cartwright had a number of clubs interested but chose Sunderland, who he says have an “excellent” Academy set-up.
He trained with the club for a year before being invited into the under-16 squad, from where he progressed onto a full scholarship in summer 2011.
“I couldn’t believe it when I was offered the contract,” he recalled.
“We were called to a meeting at the Academy with my mam and dad and Ged [McNamee, Academy manager].
“When he told me I had the scholarship I just blanked out; I didn’t even hear anything else he said because I couldn’t believe that all my years of playing since I was a youngster had paid off.”
However, Cartwright saw his rapid progress stunted by a serious injury he picked up while on duty with the under-16s in an away game at Everton before his scholarship kicked off.
“I made a run into the box and a cross came in, so I jumped up to challenge the keeper,” he recalled.
“I got in front of him, flicked on and was watching the flight of the ball. My knee bent as I landed.”
The fallout was horrific. Cartwright tore his cruciate ligament as well as damaging the bottom section of his hamstring.
The injury required an operation and the midfielder was sidelined for around seven months, meaning he returned to action with around three months of his scholarship already elapsed.
However, he still managed 16 appearances after returning to action, but the road to recovery wasn’t an easy one.
“The adrenaline of being back carried me through when I first returned, but after that my touch went a little bit and I felt tired,” he explained.
“The timing of the injury was doubly disappointing as it set me back and I had a bit of catching up to do.”
Suitably back up to speed, Cartwright has enjoyed a good first half of the 2012-13 season, establishing himself as a regular starter, and he admits he’s loved the campaign so far.
“It’s probably been my best year of football, although I still think I can play better,” he said.
“I’ve been more consistent this year. Last season I would play really well in one game and then have a nightmare the next.
“This year I’ve been more consistent and I’m probably getting back to near where I should be.”
The youngsters kicked off their second half of the season in style last week with a 4-1 rout of Wolves in the Midlands.
Cartwright featured as the young Black Cats ran out comfortable winners.
“We knew it was going to be a hard game and we did well after going 1-0 down against the run of play,” he explained.
“We had plenty of chances and just came out and played our game in the second half.
“We passed the ball really well and they couldn’t get near us.”