Scott Rickards, youth coach and head of recruitment at Mansfield Town academy, has hailed the roaring success of his under-18 residential side, who are set to play Shenfield in the final of the English Schools’ FA National Cup at the Bet 365 Stadium next Friday.
Stags are eligible for participation in the competition due to the players studying a BTEC as part of their two-year period at Brooksby Melton College, Leicestershire.
Not only this, but three of the players for the under-18 residential side – Ellis Williamson, Jake Dumbleton and Sam Jackson (pictured below, from left to right) – have been put forward for England under-18 duty, and went to collect their caps earlier this week.
Rickards oversaw his side win their domestic league, Division I of the National League U19 Alliance, by two points, only losing twice all season, and has praised his side for the way they have progressed in the league and cup competitions.
"We’ve made quite easy work of the cup to be honest,” he said. “Whether that’s because the lads train at a professional capacity every day or because they’re that good I’m not sure!
“We’ve had tough games but we’ve dominated most.
“At whatever level of football, if you win your domestic league, any manager would say it’s because of the hard work that the team has done over the course of the season.”
The residential side directly feeds the academy at Mansfield Town and, due to this, Rickards has lost some of his senior players who have stepped up.
Despite this, he says that his younger players have plugged the gaps well.
“Four or five of the lads have stepped up to the youth team recently, and the ones that are stronger from my team move up and find success," he added.
“We’ve worked really hard over the course of the season. We’ve lost two or three stronger players to the youth team, but some of the younger players have stepped up and took their chance.
“Our younger players have really stepped up, the environment at Brooksby doesn’t allow our players to take their foot off the pedal.
“Everyone has really bought into the project this season and we’re really proud of the lads.”
The team will also face Oxford City next Tuesday at Brooksby Melton College for a 12.30pm kick-off in the National League U19 Alliance play-offs, an inter-school competition that pitches the winners from each division in the Alliance league against each other.