Sunderland Foundation of Light Scholars head coach Martin Jones has spoken of his delight after a “fantastic” first six months in charge.

The FoL introduced the Sunderland Scholarship scheme, based at Monkwearmouth Academy, in September, with the aim of giving aspiring footballers a chance to combine regular, high-level football with academic studies.

Despite being together for only half a year, the Sunderland Scholars have reached the final of the National Football Youth League Trophy (NFYLT), and also risen to second in their respective league table, with games in hand on leaders Coventry.

And speaking ahead of their NFYLT semi-final clash with Barnet last Wednesday, Jones reflected on a successful – but still challenging – start to life for the Scholars.

“It has gone absolutely fantastic,” he said. “It’s been obviously difficult first of all to launch it, with it being a new scheme and a new programme.

“To get it out on the streets – to let players know that there is a great development plan here for them to be able to play in a National League – that was a difficulty to actually get it up and running.

“However, now it’s up and running it feels like we are possibly in year three of four, and for us to say that after six months, it has been fantastic.”

After moving from Plymouth to team up with the Foundation of Light, Jones brings a wealth of experience having spent eight years in the South West running a similar programme.

As Plymouth’s foundation head coach, Jones led them to three consecutive league titles as well as a NFYL Trophy final.

“I’ve come from Plymouth. With me being the scholarship manager down there and having previous success, I think the foundation saw it as a good opportunity to do the same up here, which I’m presently doing. The boys are doing remarkably well in year one.

“When I moved up to the North East, Sunderland approached me and said that’s something they wanted to do.

“The foundation said it’s really professional and that’s what we want to be. Basically, I’ve come in and set the whole programme up and we’re developing it as I speak now.

“I couldn’t be happier, to be fair.”