Tyne and Wear under-16 team crowned champions at national youth football tournament
An under-16 football team is celebrating a stunning victory in a national youth tournament, which saw them crowned champions after seeing off a number of top sides.
The Tyne and Wear under-16 team – which also includes players from Sunderland and Gateshead and trains at the Temple Park ground in South Shields – emerged victors at the Aces Nationals football tournament 2021.
Tyne and Wear had earlier in the summer seen-off a Scottish side at a smaller competition held in the North East, before progressing to the national stage where the club came up against highly-ranked teams from all around the country.
Participants are normally selected from areas’ county cup or top-tier league winners.
In a grueling day-long contest – with 15-minute-long halves in the group stage clashes and 20-minute-long halves for the knockout ties – the team reached the final, where they faced Liverpool Britannia as opposition.
Tyne and Wear enjoyed a 2-0 lead for much of the clash. But the Merseyside outfit managed to back two last-gasp goals to draw the game level before the tie went to penalties – where the local lads held their nerve to end up 3-2 winners.
Paul Kirkton, South Shields resident and under-16s coach, told The Gazette that the team had pulled off an ‘incredible’ feat after 18 months of Covid-induced disappointment.
“After all the frustrations of the past two years, this was incredible,” he said.
"We harnessed all of that energy to go and play against the best teams in the country and come out on top – just little us, a small club from the North East.
“We're not back by a huge club, we don’t have amazing facilities, none of our players are in academies or anything like that. They’re just a bunch of lads who’ve come together and have managed to get to the highest level in junior football.”
He added the national success had given the team a huge lift ahead of the new season. On August 26, the squad and their families celebrated the recent success at Kirkpatrick’s in Ocean Road.
Tyne and Wear competes in the Northumberland Youth Football League and has its first game of the 2021/22 campaign – a cup tie – this weekend away to Newcastle Blue Star FC.
Mr Kirkton added: "We had a bit of homecoming celebration at Kirkpatrick’s, where we presented everyone with their medal and had a bit of food put on.
"It’s a massive boost for the boys. For any young person to be able to call themselves, a national champion is an incredible thing.
"Obviously, everyone’s going to beat us this season now. But we’re a team that wins graciously and lose graciously, so hopefully they’ll take everything the new season throws at them in their stride.”
Proud parent David Harwood,described the team’s achievement as a ‘David vs Goliath’ against-the-odds win.
“Coming into the competition as one of the less-fancied teams, I watched the lads running on empty for much of the day and carrying injuries,” he said.
"But they still kept going – which is testament to all the efforts of the players, coaches and parents involved. It was a David vs Goliath story.
“It was great to see kids put in the hard work and getting the rewards at the end.”