Matlock Town manager Mark Hume has hailed the next generation of players coming through at the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League’s Gladiators after two of the club’s sides took home trophies from the Blackpool Cup.
The Premier Division club’s academy – a member of the NPL Football Academy – turned out to be among the stars of the prestigious annual international tournament over Easter after the 40 man squad they sent to compete in three teams came home with both the U17s and U19s trophies.
Before their U19s side beat their U18s 3-0 to win the U19 final, the U17s held their nerve in a penalty shoot-out to overcome Hamilton Academicals 11-10 on penalties after drawing 1-1 in normal time.
Hume praised the club’s youngsters with his senior side nine points clear of the drop zone and now safe bar the maths heading into their rearranged fixture at relegated Ramsbottom United on Thursday night.
He said: “They’ve done really well and should be very proud, it’s nice to see they’ve come back as champions and [coaches] Jamie Yates, Steve Heath and everyone behind the scenes deserves great credit, it’s a fine achievement.”
Staged since 1994, the Blackpool Cup is run by Euro-Sportring who organise youth tournaments in 12 European countries every year involving over 8000 teams from more than 30 countries.
The Gladiators are currently third in the NPL Youth League and six points behind leaders Belper Town with a game in hand.
* The NPLFA is preparing to expand to 11 clubs and an intake of well over 200 students in September following its successful launch in 2014 at five pilot clubs.
Since then the EVO-STIK NPL has been widely hailed for becoming the first league in English football to operate a youth league and academy combining football with further education.
Launched with the backing of the Football Association to provide career pathways into the football industry, the NPLFA’s 16 to 18-year-old students study on two year courses for Level 3 Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) qualifications. At the same time, they train on a daily basis with UEFA qualified coaches and compete in the NPL Youth League and national compeitions like the FA Youth Cup.