Friday 07 March 2014
The first semi-final of the Premier League Under-16 Schools' Cup took place this week and the school that won has a link with the Premier League.
St Francis Xavier's College, of Liverpool, eased their way into the final, with a 4-0 victory over Sir Thomas Boughey High School, from Newcastle Upon Lyme, at Everton's Finch Farm Academy ground. The winning team played in shirts donated to them by Liverpool defender John Flanagan via the Players Kit Scheme.
Flanagan, who has emerged as a regular in the Liverpool this season, is a former pupil of the college and organised for the delivery of the shirts through the scheme which, since 2011, has been giving full sets of kits to school teams in partnership with the Professional Footballers' Association.
In the semi-final at Finch Farm, St Francis Xavier's College overcame the early loss through a dislocated shoulder of Irwin Kennedy to win convincingly with Michael Fearnehough getting a hat-trick and Oliver Sanderson scoring the other goal.
Current Liverpool defender Jon Flanagan, their former assistant manager Sammy Lee and ex Blackburn Rovers striker and Barclays Premier League winner Mike Newell studied at St Francis Xavier College
"Michael's going to get the praise for the goals, but the other lads such Nick Clark, Charlie Short and Ollie Sanderson, even the players at the back, were brilliant," said coach Kenny Glover, who is also a maths teacher at the college. "It was unfortunate to lose Irwin Kennedy in the first minute, but Michael Swift came in and did superbly, so you could name them all. They all played brilliantly and the subs all did well, too."
Other players for the school who have gone on to play professionally include Sammy Lee and Mike Newell, who won the Barclays Premier League title with Blackburn Rovers. None of the current side is on the books of professional academies, but Glover thinks that their exploits in the U16s competition, which is being sponsored from this season by the Premier League, will give them the opportunity to get noticed.
"Some of them are very good players but they’re not tied down to clubs," he said. "The bonus is that they can concentrate on studies I suppose!"
Glover was grateful for Everton hosting the match, with the conditions suiting his team's style of play.
"The quality of the pitch was good," he said. "It was a nice big pitch and it suited us as the boys got the ball down and played it around nicely as well. It's that step up from just a normal school or council fields, which a lot of the lads are used to playing on."
Their opponents in the final are yet to be confirmed, with Woking's Winston Churchill Sports College and Croydon's Whitgift School set to contest the other semi-final, but Glover is confident his boys can go on to win the tournament, and the players' mind-set echoes the sentiment.
"It's what you go into all the competitions for," he said. "You want to win them and get to the finals and that’s what they have done. A lot of the lads love football. It’s good because there are a lot of people in the school looking up to them and saying well done.”
If they do win their first title, the schoolboys of St Francis Xavier's College will be getting their hands on a new trophy. The League has been supporting the English Schools FA for the past 20 years but from this season is sponsoring the Under-16 tournament and so commissioned a new trophy to mark this.
The other semi-final, between Whitgift School and Winston Churchill Sports College will take place on 13 March at Chelsea's Cobham training ground.
St Francis Xavier’s College (Liverpool) 4-0 Sir Thomas Boughey High School (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
13 March Winston Churchill Sports College (Woking, Surrey) v Whitgift School (Croydon, Surrey), Chelsea FC Training Ground, Cobham, Surrey, 3pm kick-off.
For more details go to the ESFA website: http://www.esfa.co.uk.