Ridgeons youngsters shining on the national stage

In a month's time, Norfolk U18s travel along the A50 to Stoke-on-Trent to face their Staffordshire counterparts in the county FA Youth Cup Final at Stoke's Britannia Stadium.

Rather than Rory Delap's monstrous throw-ins, the pitch will belong to Norfolk's best and brightest young prospects. A goal from King's Lynn Town's young striker Thomas Barnes gave the Norfolk youngsters a 1-0 semi-final victory away to Birmingham. To reach the final is an incredible achievement for the Norfolk young stars.

The Ridgeons Premier Division is strongly represented in the squad; Jordan Southgate, Ben Jones, Kai Hewitt and Jamie George all hail from Wroxham. Highest-placed Norfolk side in the Ridgeons Premier, Dereham are also represented by four players; Sam Borrer, Lewis Butcher, Nathan Howard and Joe Manning. Even The Ridgeons First Division is represented by two players; Fakenham Town's highly-rated midfielder Dan Savory and Gorleston's Jack Whatmouth.

In charge of these talented youngsters is Ian Thornton, who has a Uefa 'A' coaching badge. The Norfolk under 18s seem to have all the ingredients of an extremely successful side, and will fancy there chances come 2pm on the April 30.

This squad is also proof that the teams in The Ridgeons League are looking after their youth teams, and there is a continuous production line of talented youngsters ready to come through the ranks. This bodes well for a strong future in the Ridgeons League. It is also a testament to the standard of football found in this league, given that the majority of these youngsters are not regular fixtures in their side but are heavily involved in an extremely successful youth side.

A player who is an exception to this is Fakenham midfielder Savory, who is not only a regular in The Ghosts' line up but one of their most important players. In fact he was the best player on the park when Fakenham beat Diss Town earlier in the season. This just goes to show that faith in young players can pay dividends.

The Norfolk Under 18s have already exceeded expectations with this superb run. So, come April 30 they can go into the final with no pressure and really enjoy their day out in the Potteries.

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