The Premier League Schools Tournament is a fantastic event which allows hundreds of youngsters the chance to experience the thrill of being treated like a Premier League footballer.
Created to increase participation in football, each of the 20 Barclays Premier League Clubs stages their own competition to select a school to represent them on finals day, with more than 800 schools and 6,500 players battling it out for the right to play at Bolton Wanderers’ Reebok Stadium.
The 2011 tournament, staged on 24 May, was bigger and better than in previous years, enabling every top-flight club to have a team in both age groups at the Finals: Under-11 boys and Under-13 girls.
The 320 players participating on Finals day wore proper Premier League club kit, used the same dressing-rooms that the professionals use on match-day, came down the tunnel to the Premier League anthem and were even refereed by Premier League match officials.
Here is the 2011 tournament in numbers:
- More than 6,500 children took part
- More than 800 schools entered
- All 20 Premier League clubs were represented
- 320 children experienced Finals day
- Six Premier League referees officiated: Mike Dean, Andre Marriner, Mike Jones, Peter Walton, Phil Dowd and Anthony Taylor
- There were two winners: Liverpool beat Birmingham in the Boys Under-11 event, while Everton triumphed over Blackburn in the Girls Under-13 competition
- One fantastic day
Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards paid tribute to the event and praised the children who took part at Bolton.
"It has been a fantastic event and a wonderful chance for these youngsters," he said. "To come to a Premier League ground and play on a pitch where some of the best players in the world have performed is a bit of a dream; some of them find it hard to believe it is real.
"It makes me so proud to be part of the Premier League when I come to events like this and see the smiles on the faces of the youngsters. We expanded it to give this dream chance to even more children and it is better than ever."
Every player received a memento of the day, climbing the stadium steps to a special presentation in front of the Barclays Premier League trophy and against a Barclays Premier League backdrop.
Bolton striker Kevin Davies handed out the trophies, and he said: "This is a fantastic event and it’s wonderful to see so many kids experiencing the thrill of playing at the Reebok.
"It still gives me a buzz whenever I walk out on to the pitch so I know how they felt. Every one of them was made to feel very special by the Premier League."