The FA Youth Cup is a competition that often goes under the
radar but its significance is such that it gave the springboard to the likes of
Michael Owen, Ryan Giggs, Steven Gerrard, Paul Pogba and Harry Kane. Even here
at the Pan, current professional footballers David Wheeler, Grant Hall and
Solly March were part of young Rook squads who competed in the junior version
of the world’s most famous cup competition. Wheeler and Hall were of course
part of our all-conquering 2008 youth side who memorably reached the third
round proper of the competition, a feat only achieved by two other Sussex
non-league clubs in the cup’s 65 year history, only to unluckily lose 2-1 to
Hull City in front of over 650 at the Dripping Pan.
Fast forward nineteen years and the youth set-up in BN7 is
in great shape. Both the Academy and Bostik U18 squad are managed by Alex
Walsh, and assisted by Dale Hurley, and they arguably have their most talented
squad for years.
Just like the men’s first team, the U18s squad currently sit
top of the Bostik South League although the young Rooks still hold a superb
100% record – five games played, five games won. Throw in a couple of cup games
and its seven wins from seven.
On Thursday night (19th October) we welcome
Steyning Town U18s to the Dripping Pan in what is the third and final qualifying
round in this season’s FA Youth Cup, kick off 7.45pm. The winners of this tie
will be through to the first round proper and with it a potential tie against a
professional Football League club. The last time we were pitted against the
‘big boys’ was in 2011, when a certain Solly March was part of a young Rooks
squad that was eventually beaten by Brentford.
In our previous match in this season’s competition, we
negotiated a tricky away tie at fellow Bostik Leaguers Leatherhead. A 2-1 AET
victory, with goals from George McCarthy and Ricky Aguiar, was enough to
progress. Our opponents on Thursday have impressively beaten Chichester City, Chessington
& Hook United and Kingstonian to reach this round, while their league
campaign also boasts a 100% record. Town’s main goal threat this season has
come from centre forward Rafe Brooks although the goals have been shared around
between their other attacking players. Its centre back Alfie Headland who leads
the Rooks goalscoring charts but with six players on two goals or more there’s
been no shortage of goals this season.
Gaffer Alex Walsh commented “We’ve started off really well
this season and the morale in the squad is really high. We have a tough run in
of games, including this FA Youth Cup tie, coming up and look forward to the
challenge. Special mention and a speedy recovery to former Rook Jonny Taylor
who unfortunately fracturing his ankle this week for Steyning Town”. Assistant
boss, Dale Hurley added “Playing in the FA Youth Cup is a special occasion for
any young player, Thursday’s game will be a great contest between two sides who
have started their respective seasons very well. The first round proper is a
great incentive for both clubs”.
Please come along to support your Rooks of the future.