JOMA Division champions Warrington Town Yellows are meeting CHRYSO Division winners Matlock Town Whites in the NPL Football Academy's Grand Final at Leek Town's Harrison Park on May 11 after their star students tested themselves against the next generation of youngsters coming through at the Championship's Latics.
Students from Belper Town, Carlton Town, Leek Town, Mickleover Sports, Ossett Albion, Radcliffe, Warrington Town and Witton Albion lost 6-1 to the successful U18s side at the former NPL champions, Bobbie Mcdonnell replying for the visitors in atrocious conditions as both sides battled torrential rain throughout.
Athletic are coached by former Warrington Town NPLFA coach Nick Chadwick and the academy's coaches hailed a "fantastic" performance after seeing their players match the hosts technically for long periods in the terrible conditions.
As they prepared to see their champions of champions lift the Jordan Burndred Memorial Trophy in Staffordshire next week, a spokesman said: “It was a great day for the programme and a fantastic experience for our students. They all showed exemplary attitude and behaviour and we were delighted with their performance, it was a proud day for all involved. [Warrington Town tutor/coach] Mark Baker who was head coach on the day was particularly impressive in what is always a unique situation, putting the side together when they have never played as a team.
“The inter-league games are a perfect occasion to showcase the talent we have and to reward students for their hard work both in the classroom and on the pitch over the course of the season. We are now getting asked for fixtures from professional clubs rather than just asking clubs ourselves which shows the reputation our students are gaining and the programme as a whole. We are hoping to organise games at all stages of the season and are now planning one for pre-season 2018."
Thanking the Latics, he added: "On behalf of everyone at the NPLFA, we would like to thank Wigan Athletic and in particular Nick Chadwick for their hospitality on the day and we wish them the very best of luck in their forthcoming finals. A special thanks must also go to the parents and friends who transported the students to allow them to take part in the day.”
The Jordan Burndred Memorial Trophy was presented for the first time last season to honour the memory of Leek Town NPLFA student Jordan Burndred who died in tragic circumstances in 2016 while on holiday with his family in Turkey aged 17.
Deluge: The fixture went ahead despite heavy rain
The NPLFA was founded with the backing of the Football Association at five pilot clubs in September 2014 to provide career pathways into the football industry with youngsters studying on two year BTEC courses.
Still the only league-wide academy in English football combining sport with education and now expanded to 12 members clubs, the NPLFA welcomed its fourth intake of students this season while launching a new higher education partnership with Loughborough University so students could continue their studies to degree level within the Northern Premier League.
NPLFA team: Sam Gilbert (Belper Town), Joe Ruane (Warrington Town), Morgan Williams (Mickleover Sports), Tyreece Robinson (Mickleover Sports) Ben White (Warrington Town), Josh Wright (Warrington Town), Stanley Tatters (Witton Albion), Jake Smith (Mickleover Sports), Morgan Holloway (Belper Town), Bobbie Mcdonnell (Warrington Town), Ben Harley (Ossett Albion)
Substitutes, all used: Luke Brocklehurst (Warrington Town), Max Bennett (Mickleover Sports), Harley Kozluk (Mickleover Sports), Ollie Griffths (Witton Albion), Stephen Mellor (Leek Town), Josh Harris (Carlton Town)
All for one: The NPLFA's XI before kick-off
For further details and information on the football education programme, visit www.nplfa.co.uk or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images courtesy of @NPLFA/Twitter
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