First blood to Stoke as youngsters beat Manchester

Stoke may have been handed a morale boost ahead of the FA Cup Final, after a county FA side unofficially representing the club romped to a 3-0 win over their Manchester equivalents.

The match - the showpiece of the 2011 ESPN Cup of Dreams - was held as a precursor to Saturday’s FA Cup Final, with ESPN looking to revive the tradition of a full day’s broadcasting from Wembley with 12 hours of coverage of this year’s final.

Staffordshire FA and Manchester FA unofficially represented Stoke and Manchester City respectively, with the two teams of youngsters advised by ex-pros. ESPN analyst Kevin Keegan took charge of the Staffordshire side while ESPN FA Cup ambassador Gary Mabutt led Manchester.

A goal from Jack Sherratt and brace by Sean Henderson saw Staffordshire triumph 3-0 in the Grass Roots event at London’s Ark Academy School, in the shadow of Wembley Stadium‘s famous arch.

The ever-enthusiastic Keegan was delighted to be involved, saying: “I believe the FA Cup should be cherished. As a player, manager and now ESPN analyst, there is no more gratifying competition on which to work.

“Our aim at ESPN is to convey the passion and excitement of the FA Cup.”

The 2011 ESPN Cup of Dreams Grass Roots Final is the culmination of a season of community events the broadcaster has held to mark its first year covering the FA Cup.

Keegan added: “Being involved in the 2011 ESPN Cup of Dreams Grass Roots Final is just another part of ESPN's fantastic first season with the FA Cup.

“I would like to thank the Manchester FA and Staffordshire FA for their hard work, and the Ark Academy, who have been fantastic hosts."

Throughout the season ESPN worked with former players such as Cyrille Regis, Steve Claridge and Kevin Ratcliffe to deliver FA Cup coaching sessions to children nationwide.

ESPN's all-day coverage of the FA Cup Final is live from Wembley from 8am on May 14. ESPN’s coverage will be ad-free during the match and is available in 3D on Sky 3D

By Ian Perkins