Peterborough United Deaf team footballer called up by England will use national platform to raise awareness on abuse

Will Palmer in action for Posh.Will Palmer in action for Posh.
Will Palmer in action for Posh.
Peterborough United footballer Will Palmer is proud to have been selected for England.

The talented 18 year-old forward is training with the England men’s 11-a-side deaf squad as they prepare for the World Cup in South Korea in September as well as the Deaflympic qualifiers against Russia and Greece later this year.

He has also been selected for the under 21 squad ahead of the European Championships in Germany in June.

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“It is an amazing feeling playing for England, just the thought of playing for your country is unbelievable,” said Will, who has a cochlear implant to enable him to hear a little.

A young Will Palmer playing for Hampton.A young Will Palmer playing for Hampton.
A young Will Palmer playing for Hampton.

“It has been something I’ve been working towards for about seven years, when I was part of an FA Football Talent Pathway for deaf children and it’s finally paid off.

“I’ve been around really good players and staff, everything is at a really high standard and I’m proud to try and maintain that standard. The next target is to keep myself in that squad and get selected for the upcoming competitions.

“All of my friends and teammates were all stunned and congratulated me on it through social media,” explained Will, who signs and lipreads.

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“They were all excited for me and even asked to come and watch the matches! My family were incredibly proud of me, they all have been there every step of the way and they all know how much it means to me, so hats off to them for their ongoing support, especially my dad because without it, I definitely would not have been here.”

Will Palmer in the dressing room at St George's Park.Will Palmer in the dressing room at St George's Park.
Will Palmer in the dressing room at St George's Park.

Dad Andrew Palmer is chairman of the Peterborough United Foundation and has run the club’s deaf teams for seven years.

“There will be a lot of weekend training camps over the next few months and those camps do have quite a bit of a travelling distance that I’ll be driving to, sometimes St George’s Park or Lilleshall which is the old England Football training ground,” explained Will, who is hoping businesses might help support his progress with sponsorship.

“England are quite hopeful of getting silverware from the U21s European Championships. We are playing against Spain, Sweden and Poland in the group, who are three very good teams so that should be a really good experience.

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“There is another competition that I am striving to get into the squad for. Being on the plane to South Korea for the World Cup in September/October for the men’s team is primarily my target and something I need to work for, fingers crossed!”

Will enjoyed the first England training camp and learnt a lot from the players and the coaching team. “The intensity of the camp was very high and the coaches are constantly expecting the best out of you,” he added.

“St George’s Park is an astonishing place and to be changing in the same changing room where Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Jadon Sancho go is so mesmerising.”

Will’s long term ambition is to play at the highest stage of football.

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“I am looking for a semi-professional club at the moment to get involved with and to try and get as much experience as possible in men’s football, as I only just turned 18.

“I also want to raise more awareness on why abuse should be stopped completely on deaf children and adults in football, purely because of their hearing and how much it affects their football psychologically.

“I just want people to realise how much of an impact it can have on their football and what you can do to stop it.”

Will’s passion for football began at Hampton Vale Primary’s after-school club. Keen to join a team and win trophies, he did just that with Hampton Under 10s, scoring over 20 goals in his first season. That was where his skills caught the eye of an FA scout recruiting for the Talent Pathway.

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Will went on to play at Derby’s Centre of Excellence for deaf children and then at Bedford’s East Anglian Centre of Excellence, just missing out on a place in the England men’s futsal team for the 2017 World Cup in Switzerland.

All that time he was playing for Peterborough United’s deaf football team and last year signed for Stamford AFC, playing in their youth team.

If that’s not enough, Will plays for Peterborough United’s Scholarship team, where he is a second year student studying an NVQ Extended Level 3 Diploma and also represents Northamptonshire at county level.

As a member of the Talented Athletes’ Scholarship Scheme he also has access to the best advice for developing young sportspeople and works with a conditioning coach at Cambridge University.

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One of the highlights of Will’s career so far has been captaining Peterborough’s U21s deaf futsal team to win the national championship, qualifying for the European Championships in Poland, where they won bronze last year.