Manager Des Williams is hoping Vale of White Horse Schools’ team spirit will stand them in good stead as they take on Newcastle upon Tyne in the ESFA Under 15 Trophy final at Hull City’s KC Stadium next Wednesday (1.30pm).
Williams is also the first to admit that Vale have ridden their luck in schoolboy football’s most prestigious competition this season to set up something of a David and Goliath clash.
Indeed, it looked as if their run was over when they lost 1-0 to Bromley in the semi-finals, only for it to emerge that their Kent opponents had fielded an ineligible player, and Vale were handed a place in the final.
In the two previous rounds they were taken to penalty shoot-outs before emerging victorious against Swansea, and Cambridge & District, with keeper Eddie Cavanagh the hero.
However, those successes also point to a never-say-die attitude.
And Williams said of his players: “They have shown lots of spirit and we’ve ridden our luck a bit.
“Someone up there has been looking after us. We struggle to score goals, but we defend very well.
“It will be a great day out and a great experience for the lads.
“As far as I am concerned it is all about going there and enjoying it.
“If we can get a result then that’s great, and we will obviously be going to try and win.”
Newcastle’s passage to the final has also been far from straightforward, with the Geordie boys requiring penalties to beat Warrington and York & District in the semi-finals and quarter-finals.
Vale of White Horse Schools: S Barder (King Alfred’s), E Cavanagh (Fitzharrys), T Chamberlain (Langtree), R Cundy (Fitz-harrys), M Curtis (Fitzharrys), J Davies (King Alfred’s), G Francis (King Alfred’s), J Jones (King Alfred’s), A Martin (John Mason), J Ploszynski (Langtree), O Shaw (King Alfred’s), R Tanner (St Birinus), C Taylor (Fitzharrys), A Thomas (King Alfred’s), L Thorne (Matthew Arnold, capt), T White (Fitzharrys).
ROUTES TO THE FINAL.
1st round: byes – Vale of White Horse, Newcastle upon Tyne.
2nd round: Vale of White Horse 6, Dacorum 0; Newcastle upon Tyne w/o East Durham.
3rd round: Vale of White Horse 4, Swindon 2; Newcastle upon Tyne 2, Hartlepool 1.
4th round: Vale of White Horse 4, Hereford & District 1; Carlisle 0, Newcastle upon Tyne 1.
5th round: Vale of White Horse 1, Cambridge & District 1 (aet, Vale won 3-2 on pens); Bishop Auckland 0, Newcastle upon Tyne 2.
Quarter-finals: Swansea 1, Vale of White Horse 1 (aet, Vale won 4-2 on pens); Newcastle upon Tyne 1, York & District 1 (aet, Newcastle won 5-3 on pens).
Semi-finals: Bromley 1, Vale of White Horse 0 (Vale awarded tie due to ineligible Bromley player); Newcastle upon Tyne 0, Warrington 0 (aet, Newcastle won 4-2 on pens).
l Five local lads are in the Oxon squad which will face Durham in the ESFA Under 16 Inter County Trophy final at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground on Tuesday (1pm).
James Clarke (Walling-ford), Ollie Thomas (St Birinus), Matthew Woodley (John Mason), Conor Ingram and Hayden Jones (both Fitzharrys) will be going for glory in a squad jointly managed by Des Williams and Steve Alman.
But whatever the results of the two finals, Williams has a big day to look forward to on Tuesday, May 22 after being invited to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace for his services to Oxfordshire sport, and football in particular, stretching back over more than 40 years.
Vale of White Horse Schools Under 14 missed out on lifting the Vale Cup with Cheltenham taking the trophy on goal difference after a last-minute strike gave them a 1-0 win over Mid Oxon at Tewkesbury School.
Chris Hewitt was St Birinus School, Didcot’s hero with a last-minute winner in a 2-1 victory over Fitzharrys School, Abingdon, in the Vale of White Horse Under 16 Cup final at Letcombe FC.
Nick Crook’s 20-yard drive gave Faringdon a half-time lead.
But Adam Wheat equalised ten minutes from time with a shot into the top corner, before Hewitt slotted home the winner at the death.