Norfolk starlets bid for glory

Norfolk Under-18s manager Ian Thornton insists there will not be a prouder man inside Stoke’s Britannia Stadium when he leads out his side against the hosts Staffordshire in Saturday’s County FA Youth Cup.

The county squad – drawn primarily from local Ridgeons League clubs – has never reached this stage of the competition in the 120 year history of the Norfolk FA so Thornton and his boys will be breaking new ground whatever happens in the Potteries this weekend.

He said: “Like all the players, coaching staff and committee members, I am extremely proud to be representing Norfolk as the county U18 manager. Reaching the final of this very prestigious competition and leading the team out at Stoke City FC will remain in the memories of everybody involved for a very long time.”

Thornton believes his team have had to show all sides of their game to reach the final and that their fantastic run has tested all aspects of his young side’s game.

He said: “In every game we have played we have seen something different from the players, whether it be reacting to going a goal down, playing in adverse weather conditions or on a difficult surface, lining up against very good players or responding to pressure situations. In every scenario the players have responded in a positive way.”

Thornton or ‘The Gaffer’ as he is affectionately known by his players is expecting a tough, physical test from his Staffordshire-based counterparts.

He said: “Staffordshire will have some very talented players and coaching staff. We have watched them and seen many strengths in their team. We expect them to be physical, organised and very much up for a Cup final. I expect the game to be very different to the semi-final and league fixtures we have both played in, so it will boil down to very much what happens on the day. We have a game plan and hope for some good performances and a little bit of luck, like you do in all cup finals.”

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The county’s football association has been running football for 120 years at grassroots, semi-professional and professional level. Work was carried out on an honorary basis until the Football Association provided funding for the Norfolk FA to become administered by a full-time body back in 1996.


Norfolk manager Ian Thornton gives the inside track on his star squad.

• Name: Kai Hewitt

Position: Goalkeeper

D.O.B: 08.10.92

Club: Wroxham FC

“The Beast” has been a vital part of the squad this year, making important contributions at key moments. Kai has great experience, quality and consistency. This has been noticed not just locally but nationally, with Kai being honoured with representing his country at college level.

• Name: Jack Whatmough

Position: Goalkeeper

D.O.B: 03.04.93

Club: Gorleston

Jack’s number of appearances have been limited due the level of performances from Kai this season, but when he has found himself between the sticks Jack has performed admirably. Has promised his manager that, if the team were to win today, he will get his hair cut.

• Name: Joe Manning

Position: Defender

D.O.B: 20.09.92

Club: Dereham Town FC

Joe has shown great maturity this season, with his performances becoming increasingly consistent and showing improvement in key areas. Likes to get forward and support his wide man from full back.

• Name: Ali Durrant

Position: Defender

D.O.B: 04.09.93

Club: Wroxham FC

One of the most polite and well mannered young men you will ever meet. Ali has missed the majority of the second half of the season through a nasty knee injury, but has remained an important part of the squad. A very talented defender who wears his heart on his sleeve and gives the team nothing but 100 per cent. Hoping to be fit for the start of next season.

• Name: Ryan Fryatt

Position: Defender

D.O.B: 02.10.93

Club: King’s Lynn Town FC

Ryan is considered the “baby” of the group, but he plays with maturity far beyond his years. This has also been noticed back at his club, where he is now featuring regularly in the first team set-up. One of the stand-out performers and undoubtedly has the potential to play a higher level.

• Name: Dan Savory

Position: Defender

D.O.B: 23.03.93

Club: Fakenham Town FC

“The Machine.” Dan is a physical specimen, a great defender who reads the game very well and who has formed a great partnership with Ryan Fryatt at the heart of defence this season. A born leader and player other squad members look up to.

• Name: Thomas McLeish,

Position: Defender,

D.O.B: 08.05.93,

Club: King’s Lynn Town FC

“Mucca” has been one of our most consistent players this campaign, picking up numerous man of the match awards from the Norfolk FA Committee. Wears his heart on his sleeve and without fail gives 100pc. Great delivery from set pieces, which have caused defences all sorts of problems this season.

• Name: Lewis Sturman

Position: Defender

D.O.B: 17.04.94

Club: King’s Lynn Town FC

A young player with bags of enthusiasm and an excellent attitude towards the game. Lewis wants to perform well all the time and, although he is yet to have a run of games in the starting 11, has shown a good deal of promise for the future.

• Name: Sam Borrer

Position: Midfielder and Captain

D.O.B: 25.10.92

Club: Dereham Town FC

Sam has been immense this season and leads by example in his performances, character and intelligence. Well respected, he has a bright future on and off the pitch.

• Name: Ben Jones

Position: Midfielder

D.O.B: 18.02.94

Club: Wroxham FC

Ben is a player with good technical ability, tremendous work rate and a great personality off the pitch. He has featured in a number of different positions this season, highlighting his flexibility as a player.

• Name: Jordan Southgate

Position: Midfielder

D.O.B: 11.11.92

Club: Wroxham FC

Jordan has endured something of a stop start season due to injuries, but has worked extremely hard to return to full fitness. A player with outstanding passing ability, Jordan also possesses a great personality and attitude. Has made a major contribution on and off the field.

• Name: Gino Livoti

Position: Winger

D.O.B: 25.02.93

Club: King’s Lynn Town FC

“Ringo” has made some telling contributions this season, none more so than when dispatching the winning goal from the spot at Wiltshire in the quarter-final. A player with great skill and pace, can be extremely dangerous for any defence.

• Name: Joe Marsden

Position: Winger

D.O.B: 25.05.93

Club: Lowestoft Town FC

The “cool” kid in the squad. When on top of his game, Joe can be virtually unplayable. Possesses great pace and skill and has made some vital contributions.

• Name: Thomas Barnes

Position: Forward

D.O.B: 28.01.93

Club: King’s Lynn Town FC

“Barnesy” can do a bit of everything and has popped up with some important goals this season. Has delivered outstanding performances in big games, including away at Dorset in Round One of this competition. Overall Thomas is a good lad and team player, who is very much the professional on and off the pitch.

• Name: Jamie George

Position: Forward

D.O.B: 15.04.93

Club: Wroxham FC

‘Brows’ has relished the opportunity to play at this level and his game has developed and improved. Jamie is always 100pc committed, has a steely determination, and is always a good bet for a goal.

• Name: Nathan Howard

Position: Forward

D.O.B: 05.03.94

Club: Dereham Town FC

Nathan has come on to the scene late in the season, but has performed very well when given the opportunity. He’s a forward with a real eye for goal.

• Name: Lewis Butcher

Position: Forward

D.O.B: 06.09.93

Club: Dereham Town FC

Lewis is a player with experience of playing as a schoolboy with Ipswich Town FC. Has blistering pace and an eye for goal, qualities helping int he transition from U18 football to senior level with his club.