Fourteen Australian teenagers will fly out for the United Kingdom later this week to take part in the celebration of the oldest football competition in the world.
Gold Coast-based Nerang Eagles, from the Academy of Football Australia, will be the sole international representative in the eight-team Youdan Trophy, which originated in 1867, pre-dating the FA Cup by four years.
Given its historical significance the trophy has been valued at £100,000 by the BBC Antiques Roadshow, with the new trophy kept under guard when on show to the public in recent weeks.
The trophy, which is now an under-age tournament, will see Nerang come up against Celtic, Charlton Athletic and Sheffield United from July 27. Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday, Brentford and the highly regarded FAB Academy are in the other group.
The Eagles train four times a week with academy coach Gary Scott and are currently dominating the Gold Coast Under-14 Junior Premier League with 10 wins from 10 games.
The academy, which produced Blake Thompson and Jarrod Kyle (who spent time with Birmingham City and Sheffield Wednesday respectively), was invited to take part in the cup by academy director Billy Stewart who’s worked with Liverpool and England’s national team.
“He asked me if I was interested in it and I jumped at it,” Scott told FourFourTwo. “It’s a big deal over there, so we’re really excited to be involved.
“This is a phenomenal opportunity for these boys to be invited to the oldest football trophy tournament in the world, compete against some of the best young talent on the globe and train under the best in the business in Billy Stewart.
“We’ve drummed the history into the boys, but it gives our kids a challenge as well.
“Sheffield United’s academy is very well regarded for producing players like Phil Jagielka, Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker along with Celtic’s academy.
“We’re going to be up against it, there’s no two ways about it.”
Almost 150 years ago, when the cup was first contested, Hallam FC triumphed with the final played at United’s current home, Bramall Lane.
This year’s reincarnation will also conclude at Bramall Lane, with the group stage to take place at the Sports Park of Sheffield Hallam University.
“We can use it as an academy template for where we need to go and improve,” Scott added.
“We can play against who we want over here but there’s nothing like going on to foreign soil and pitting your wits against some of the best.”
— Youdan Trophy (@YoudanTrophy) July 13, 2015
The Eagles have spent the past 12 months fundraising for the tournament, which is a tribute to the trophy’s original sponsor, Sheffield entrepreneur and philanthropist Thomas Youdan.
Nerang will spend a week at Stewart’s Football Academy in Lancashire, before taking part in the trophy. They will likely play a series of friendlies including clashes with Wigan Athletic and Everton as preparation.
“The kids train four times a week and they’ve been putting a lot of hours in,” Scott said.
“As far as technical ability goes, I’m not too worried about that, but it’s the English game and their physicality. I’m hoping our boys can match them.”
Squad: Beau Cornish, Ethan Towse, Jack Krushka, Joel Bruggy, Jordan Bishop, Josh Hockings, Lewis Gibson, Max King, Nathan Bow, Niko Louw, Ryan Campbell, Sebastian Robbemond, Tyran Sonter, Victor Anaya; Gary Scott (coach), Shane King (assistant coach)
PHOTOS: (Trophy, Cup and Display) Courtesy of Tournament Manager Daniel McAtamney, photographed by Zoe Hillsden