An underdog Merseyside Under 14s football team is heading unbeaten to the national final in its first year in the Junior Premier League.
And it’s got support from an icon of the game, The Football Pools, which is funding free travel to the match for all the players.
Silcox Villa Under 14s, which is based in Litherland, was undefeated in eight out of eight North West division games, and in the Nerf JPL quarter-finals and semi-finals, despite facing opposition from much bigger clubs.
The team – which doesn’t have a permanent home pitch – will face Bromley FC from Kent in the 4,000-capacity £4million ground of Gloucester AFC.
Manager and coach Stephen Boardman from Waterloo says the lads have exceeded all expectations and he’s delighted that their efforts in getting to the final have been rewarded.
He said: “We’ve been amazed at how well the boys have done in reaching this stage of what is a high-class junior football competition, and even more amazed by The Football Pools’ generosity in making a donation towards our transport.
“It’s helped us in allowing all the playing squad to travel for free which has been a welcome relief as the cost of the transport was a worry and obviously it would have been an extra expense for the families which we really wanted to avoid.”
Silcox Villa Under 14s only made the move into the Nerf JPL at the start of this season after being undefeated for three years in the Hightown League.
“We warned the lads that they should expect to lose at this level because most of the other teams are linked to top-end non-league clubs and a lot of the players have been at clubs previously and gone through the Academy system,” said Stephen.
“But then we kept on winning and in the semi-final we beat Team 780 from Scunthorpe, which has links to Sheffield Wednesday, 8-1 which was the best we’ve played all year.”
The majority of Silcox Villa Under 14s team come from north Liverpool – from Bootle, Waterloo, Crosby and Maghull – and Stephen says they’re a close-knit squad.
“I’ve had two players since they were seven, including my own son, and about eight of them have been with me since Under 10s. They go to about eight different schools, but they’re a really tight group when it comes to the football.
“At no stage did we think we would advance to the national pathway and then continue by progressing to the national final so as far as I’m concerned they’ve got nothing to lose We’re just really grateful to the Football Pools for supporting us and we’ll hopefully do ourselves proud on the day.”