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i2i Coaches and Staff

As part of the i2i Soccer programme, students benefit from coaching with UEFA PRO Coaches, A Licensed Coaches, former English Premier League and International players, supported by experienced academics and industry experts, several of whom are renowned for their work in coaching across the world.

Find out more about our coaches for i2i International Soccer Academy and i2i International Female Soccer Academy below. You can also find the contact details for i2i's recruiters as well as NU's Recruitment and International Projects Manager, Chris Bunten.

Meet the Team

Profile image of Bryan HughesBRYAN HUGHES: HEAD OF COACHING

Bryan is a former professional football player who played in the English Premier League with Birmingham City, Charlton Athletic and Hull City. In a career spanning three decades, Bryan made nearly 500 pro appearances, playing against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham on a weekly basis. 

As well as being the first player to score a goal in the new Millenium, Bryan can also lay claim to scoring a winning penalty for Charlton against Chelsea in one of Jose Mourinho’s very few defeats at Stamford Bridge.

As a UEFA A licensed coach, Bryan’s role is to oversee the pro-level coaching programme. He acts as a mentor for students on our programme.


Profile image of Darren WilliamsDARREN WILLIAMS: LEAD COACH

Darren began his career at York City, but made his name at Sunderland in the English Premier League for whom he signed in 1996. He made more than 250 appearances for Sunderland and played in over 100 Premier League games for his club.

Darren moved to Cardiff City in 2004, then on Hartlepool United in 2005, and played for Bradford City during the 2007–08 season. He went on to play with Dundee, Gateshead and Gainsborough Trinity before joining Whitby. Darren is a UEFA A licensed coach and has also managed semi-professional team Whitby Town.


Profile image of Stuart BrightwellSTUART BRIGHTWELL: LEAD COACH

Stuart started his career out at none other than Manchester United playing in their youth system before moving onto a more local side for him in Hartlepool United as midfielder.

Stuart also featured for Spennymoor United before heading stateside to play in the USL impressing with the Carolina Railhawks playing 25 times.


Profile image of Paul BrysonPAUL BRYSON: LEAD COACH

Paul brings a wealth of experience to our coaching team up at Northumbria University after spending 20 years as an U18 Academy Coach at Sunderland AFC. During his time with the Black Cats he helped develop the game of Premier League and Champions League winner Jordan Henderson, now the captain of Liverpool.

Paul also enjoyed a lengthy stint leading the National College team for 8 years. Along with Henderson, he also helped nurture the likes of Chris Basham (Sheffield United), Adam Reach (Sheffield Wednesday), Martyn Waghorn (Derby County) and Sam Greenwood (Leeds United), and coached current players of Sunderland A.F.C; Andrew Pattinson, Elliott Embleton, Dan Neil and Lynden Gooch.


Profile image of Matty PattinsonMATTY PATTINSON: LEAD COACH

Matty is a former Premier League and International footballer who played at the very highest level. During his career, Pattison has also featured on the international stage for South Africa after being born in Johannesburg before moving on to England at the age of 11. He went on to feature against the likes of United States of America, Kenya, and Mozambique picking up valuable caps for Bafana Bafana.

Whilst playing in the Premier League with Newcastle, Pattison played alongside some star-studded names including Alan Shearer, Michael Owen, Patrick Kluivert, Craig Bellamy and many more. Not to mention being managed by legendary figure Sir Bobby Robson.



Ben is a UEFA A license coach and joined us in September 2022. He has a vast array of coaching experience already under his belt having worked at Newcastle United’s Academy and Sunderland. Ben also has experience working as a Performance Analyst which will be a fantastic asset for the academy.


Profile image of Nicky DeverdicsNICKY DEVERDICS: COACH

Nicky is a professional footballer who graduated out of the world famous Newcastle United Academy and featured for some fantastic clubs throughout his career including the likes of Hartlepool United, Wrexham, Barnet, Gretna, Dover Athletic and Gateshead.

Accumulating over 400 games at the professional level, Nicky brings a wealth of experience with him and he is a fantastic addition to our already elite team of coaches. Nicky brings a real passion and energetic vibe to the team with his enthusiastic coaching style.


Profile image of Iain AitkenIAN AITKEN: GOAL KEEPER COACH

Ian is a UEFA B licensed coach and during his career has worked with Newcastle United’s Academy and Newcastle United Women. Ian has a wealth of experience behind him as both a player and a coach. He made over 600 appearances as a goalkeeper for the likes of Gateshead, Gretna and Harrogate Town.

Ian is also current Goalkeeper Coach at National League North side Blyth Spartans, alongside fellow i2i Coach Nicky Deverdics.


Profile image of Chris FairlessCHRIS FAIRLESS: LEAD WOMEN'S COACH

Chris is the first ever Lead Coach of the i2i International Women’s Soccer Academy and brings a tremendous amount of experience with him after being Assistant Manager at Middlesbrough Women for over two years.

Chris also has experience working in the Men’s game with Championship club Middlesbrough coaching their Academy.


Profile image of Lauren RobsonLAUREN ROBSON: WOMEN'S COACH

Lauren joined us in September 2022 and will assist Chris Fairless in coaching our Women’s Academy which continues to go from strength to strength.

Lauren is a young, passionate coach who has previously worked at Huddersfield Town Park View, the reigning National Football Youth League champions. Alongside her coaching career, Lauren also plays for Newcastle United Women after moving up the pyramid from Middlesbrough.



Chris has worked at Northumbria University for 8 years and has always been involved with sports teams, performance athletes and international recruitment with a focus on North America.

Overseeing the i2i programme on campus at Northumbria, Chris liaises with timetabling, accommodation, academic programme leaders as well as other stake holders.

Chris is here to help you through the whole process from the application to arrival on campus. Chris is more than happy to set up zoom meetings or WhatsApp calls with regards to any questions you or your family have about life at Northumbria from accommodation and student life to campus facilities and academic programmes, so get in touch to discuss any questions you may have.


Profile image of Corey RoperCOREY ROPER: HEAD OF RECRUITMENT

After signing for Leeds United’s Academy at the age of 7, Corey signed a scholarship in 2012 before going on to represent the whites at U18 and U21 level. More recently, Corey signed a three-year deal at Wrexham FC making his debut in 2015.

Corey recently graduated from university with a 1st class Honors degree in Sports Coaching, along with gaining his Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification and Level 2 Fitness Instructor.


Profile image of Danny WiltshireDANNY WILTSHIRE: RECRUITER

Danny is a Sports Recruiter at the i2i International Soccer Academy who is responsible for recruiting soccer student athletes both abroad and in the UK.

Danny frequently travels to North America to identify potential students and to spread the word about the opportunities available through the Academy.


Profile image of Connor MayallCONNOR MAYALL: RECRUITER

Connor is a Sports Recruiter at the i2i International Soccer Academy who is responsible for recruiting soccer student athletes from the USA.

Connor spends the vast majority of his time in the USA to identify potential student athletes as well as also spreading the word about the opportunities available through the Academy.

Connor is a graduate of the i2i International Soccer Academy, departing with a first-class honours and was successful in the recruitment process to be offered a full-time role within the recruitment team.


Profile image of Sam SummerbeeSAM SUMMERBEE: RECRUITER

Sam joined the i2i recruitment team at the beginning of the 2022/23 season. Sam enjoyed many of his youth playing years at Manchester City all the way up to the U16 age group. Following on from that he also enjoyed playing for Accrington Stanley, FC United of Manchester and Hyde United as well as getting the opportunity to train with NYCFC and players like David Villa and Andrea Pirlo.

Sam has a great track record of recruiting international student athletes to England and also has experience of attending various tournaments in the USA.


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