This Saturday Gala Parc, Porthleven (2:30KO), will play host to one of the biggest games of football Cornwall has ever hosted. It may not attract the biggest ever crowd, or boost a team sheet of familiar names, but it features two teams who are battling it out for a place in the U13 District Schools National Final. And if you don’t recognise the names yet, you probably will be hearing a lot about them soon.
West Cornwall Schools U13 side will host Aston, Erdington & Saltley in the Semi Final on Saturday, a Birmingham based district side boasting a long CV of former and current international players who have all passed through their ranks. The likes of Ron Atkinson, Julian Dicks, Lee Hendrie, Darius Vassell, Barry Bannan and Gabby Agbonlahor would have all been unheard of, fresh faced youngsters in their time playing District football, but have all blossomed into household names up. Indeed, District sides like Aston often feature the pick of the best players across numerous Premiership and Championship sides from their areas.
While West Cornwall might not be able to boast as an impressive list of alumni, this year’s U13 side have proved they are capable of competing with best players in the Country. Having now beaten East Cornwall, Poole & East Dorset, North Somerset, Portsmouth and Waltham Forest, the talented bunch are just one win from a National Final, in what is likely to be one of the Country’s most prestigious Premiership or Championship grounds.
The District setup in West Cornwall, which covers the 15 secondary schools west of and including Truro, was re-launched by Jake Ash and Dan Inch just 4 years ago. The pair, who are employed as Football Development Officers at Penryn College and Cornwall College respectively, recognised the need to offer the County’s best footballers the chance to challenge themselves against similarly talented players beyond the County’s borders. The setup now has three teams at Under 13, Under 14 and Under 15, with Cornwall FA’s Long Term Player Development Centre’s supporting the pathway from Under 7 to Under 12 level. Kevin Lawrence was employed as Football Development Officer at Mounts Bay Academy in September 2012, and has supported this work, including taking charge of the Under 13’s this year.
“It has been my pleasure to work with these boys this year.” Lawrence, who also plays for South West Pensinsula West side Hayle, said. “Jake said to me at the trials that he felt this year’s group were a special one, and myself and Frazer (Cadman, assistant manager) have enjoyed this amazing journey with these boys immensely. They are a smashing group, who play the right way and with a great attitude. I am sure whatever happens on Saturday, you will hear a
lot more about these boys in the coming years and it is great we are able to give them a chance to challenge themselves against top players.”
Indeed, the challenge is one that the Under 14 manager Jake Ash is confident they will rise to. Indeed, Ash - who played for Truro City in their 2007 FA Vase triumph at Wembley - reckons that should the team reach the final, it would even eclipse that famous day. “What Kevin and Frazer have achieved with the squad is something quite special. I genuinely believe that if they reach the final it would be the biggest achievement in Cornish football history. That might sound over the top, but in what other competition do teams from Cornwall play against the very, very best players from around the Country? The FA Vase was amazing, but that was only against players of a certain ability – it was capped.”
However, Saturday brings mixed emotions for Ash who is set to miss the game as he has been assisting with Truro City’s plight from the touchline as he recovers from his groin injury. “I am absolutely gutted I can’t be there to watch it on Saturday. If anyone see’s me checking my phone on Saturday during the game, they should know I definitely won’t be looking at the Premiership scores! I’ve already organised someone to give me minute by minute updates. But I am confident the boys will do themselves justice and enjoy the occasion. It is no fluke that they have got this far, there is some real genuine talent in there. Indeed, to reach this stage, alongside the other semi finalists who are essentially Liverpool, Birmingham and Newcastle, shows you their capability.”
There is no doubt that Saturday’s game will be a showcase of real talent. And should West Cornwall prevail, some very young players will have etched their names not only in to the minds of those watching, but surely into Cornish football history.
West Cornwall U13 Squad: Louis Graham (St Ives); Joshua Otto (St Ives); Tobi Horsell (St Ives); Jack Webber (Hayle); Ryan Barnes (Camborne); Oliver Pritchard (Richard Lander); Oliver Walker (Richard Lander); Adam Dower (Richard Lander); Jacob Trudgeon (Mounts Bay); Max Armstrong (Mounts Bay); Theo Simpson (Mounts Bay); Joel Allen (Penryn); Luke Jephcott (Penryn); Finn Robinson (Penryn); Finn Cross (Penryn); William Trew (Truro School).
Saturday 2nd March
West Cornwall v Aston, Edrington & Saltley
ESFA U13 District Cup Semi Final
2:30 KO @ Gala Parc, Porthleven.
£2 admission. 50p programme.