Stage set for Norfolk to reign in Cup

Norfolk FA chief executive Shaun Turner feels the camaraderie of being on the road helped the county’s Under-18 boys make history this weekend.

The young charges reached the final of the FA County Youth Cup for the first time on Saturday, thanks to a 1-0 semi-final victory over Birmingham FA.

And Turner believes the team spirit within manager Ian Thornton’s group has done the trick.

“It’s the first time in the history of Norfolk FA and the competition that we’ve ever reached the final,” beamed Turner. “We’ve been formed since 1881, the competition I believe started in around the 1940s, and we’ve been to the semi-finals once before. So the achievement of this team is significant.

“The last two seasons we’ve won the league we play in, against all the other east region counties – the likes of Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Suffolk; but we’ve never done well in the FA County Youth Cup.

“This year we’ve only played one league game, and we have got four remaining, but we’ve had this phenomenal cup run.

“A lot of credit has got to go to Ian and his team. I think what has been good is that all our fixtures bar one have been away, so getting the players together and going up the night before, the bonding and team spirit that is there – I think that’s made a real big impact on us having success.

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“There is a real camaraderie between the players, management and committee that goes, which has brought dividends.”

A solitary 36th-minute strike from King’s Lynn’s Thomas Barnes did the damage on Saturday, while Fakenham Town’s Dan Savory was named man of the match – two of the players how likely to get the chance to shine in the final, against Staffordshire, at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium on April 30.

“The side is for players from any club within Norfolk, so all of ours are coming from Ridgeons League or United Counties League clubs, so we’ve got numerous players from King’s Lynn, Dereham, Wroxham,” added Turner.

“It can be any player that isn’t on an FA contract basically, so they’re from all the clubs other than Norwich City – but saying that, two or three have been up to Colney and had a trial this season with the academy, which shows the quality of what is there.

“The final will be a fantastic occasion for the players, for Norfolk FA and a proud moment for the parents. It will be history in the making if we win, which would be great for Norfolk football. But more importantly it will be an opportunity for these players to be seen by a lot of professional scouts and maybe even have an opportunity to step into the pro game. So they really will be on a high level platform for this.”

Turner added: “It’s a final with Staffordshire, in Staffordshire, so we’ve got another away tie. We know they’ll be strong and physical, but we were the underdogs against Birmingham and I would like to think that on our day we’d be able to compete with anybody. Who knows? Its’ a game between two teams and we’ve got a 50-50 chance – that’s how I look at it.”