Sunderland Boys Under-15s hope for a big crowd to cheer them on in tomorrow’s English Schools Trophy quarter-final at the Academy of Light.
The Wearsiders, under the control of Lee Blakeston and Steve Wales this season, tackle Sefton at Sunderland AFC’s training base, with a 1pm kick-off.
Sunderland’s squad includes many of the players who secured national U13 success a couple of years ago, and hopes are high of progress into the semi-finals against a Sefton side the Boys last met in a 1991 semi-final replay, losing 1-0 in the final minute of extra time.
Coach Wales is eager for a good crowd to help out Sunderland, and he promised: “It most definitely will prove to be a very entertaining encounter.
“Please come along and support the very best players Sunderland Schools has to offer in this national competition and get behind the lads, giving them the support they deserve to make it through to the semi-finals.”
The city Boys were joint winners of the prestigious competition in 1983, and beaten finalists in 1990.
Sunderland’s cup adventure this term began with a hard-earned 3-2 win over a physical Richmond & Hambleton side, showing great character to come from behind twice thanks to two equalisers from the outstanding Nathan Simpson and a dramatic, late winner from Layton Watts-Fife.
The second round saw Sunderland drawn away to Allerdale, in the Lake District, but the Wearsiders produced a dominant performance which was not reflected in the convincing 4-0 victory.
Midfielder Thomas Scothern capped a superb performance with a pair of first-half strikes, with Joe Sloane and Nathan Simpson making it four.
Sunderland outgunned Carlisle 5-0 in the third round, never looking back after taking a three-goal lead inside 20 minutes, courtesy of James Thompson, Nathan Simpson and TJ McDonough.
Carlisle had disposed of Darlington and Gateshead but could not match Sunderland, with Liam Barnes and a stunning, long-ranger from McDonough setting the seal on another big win.
Sunderland’s toughest task so far came in round four, against Chester-le-Street, Washington and Derwentside Boys, who had been unbeaten in 18 months.
But the city side came through a magnificent game 2-1 on a frosty night at Consett, with Sunderland Schools FA chairman Aidan Tasker, with more than 50 years of involvement, saying: “It is, without doubt, the highest possible standard of football I have ever witnessed for U15s football, by both teams in the same game. Truly outstanding quality footballers.”
Sunderland took the initiative, with exceptional inter passing and mazy runs from Ryan Leonard putting the opposition on the back foot.
Layton Watts-Fife made the breakthrough, striking a ferocious drive which swerved with power through the wall and found the back of the net for a deserved opener.
Five minutes later, Watts-Fife struck a tremendous, 25-yard free-kick in off the post to double the lead.
Chester laid siege to Sunderland’s goal in the second half, with the visitors relying on pacy counter-attacks, and pulled a goal back 15 minutes from time.
But the defence of Allen, Byrne, Sinclair and Charlton stood firm to see out an epic victory.
Sunderland have scored 14 goals and conceded just three in their four cup wins, a remarkably similar record to Sefton, who have netted once more, with four-goal Jack Carr and Lewis Ware (3) the biggest dangers in tomorrow’s tie.
The costs of running teams at all levels is growing for Sunderland Schools FA and the Association is appealing for a sponsor to help out.
Wales said: “The money to subsidise this fantastic heritage, steeped in history approaching 125 years now, cannot be sustained on the for Under-13s 14s & 15s on the fees received from local schools alone, with the increase in kits costs, officials fees, good quality pitch facilities and, of course, successful teams travel requirements.
“If anyone interested in sponsoring a massively recognised organisation with a fantastic reputation of impeccable behaviour and integrity, please get in touch with Joe Watson on 07434 363465.”